(Reuters) - Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N) said on Friday it would acquire Chile's CFR Pharmaceuticals SA CFR.SN in a $2.9 billion deal that will more than double its branded generic drugs business in the fast-growing Latin American market.
It is the first deal for Abbott since it split into two businesses and spun off its blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug in a new company, AbbVie Inc. (ABBV.N), last year.
Abbott plans to focus the branded generics business on about 14 or 15 fast-growing countries in emerging markets. The developed markets for these products are not as attractive, the company said.
"Not all geographies are alike, and some are not particular focuses for us," CEO Miles White said during a conference call with investors. White said the company is still looking at other transactions.
Abbott also sells nutrition products and medical devices.
The CFR purchase will take place in two parts. It will buy about 73 percent of the publicly traded company through an indirect holding company. It will also conduct a tender offer for the remaining shares.
The move was a surprise to Latin American analysts, who were unaware the company was in the midst of a sale. A few months ago, it had been bidding $1.2 billion for South Africa's Adcock Ingram AIPJ.J but then walked away.
CFR shares were halted in Santiago. Abbott shares rose 0.6 percent to $39.50 in morning New York trading.
"This is very surprising," said Claudia Cavada, senior analyst with Banchile Inversiones in Santiago. "It's a very good price compared to yesterday's closing price."
Abbott will pay US $0.3465 per share, or about 190.54 Chilean pesos (549.90=$1). Shares closed on Thursday at 124.51 pesos.
Cavada said that Chile is an attractive market and it is fairly competitive for pharmaceutical firms.
JP Morgan analyst Michael Weinstein said in a research note the move fills a hole for Abbott in its Latin American presence while the company weighs the sale of its developed-market established products business.
CFR Pharmaceuticals sells about 1,000 products across Latin America, including generic drugs that have brand names. It has 7,000 employees and research and development and manufacturing facilities in Chile, Colombia, Peru and Argentina.
Abbott sells healthcare devices and branded generics in 150 countries and has 69,000 employees.
The purchase would add $900 million in sales in 2015. Analysts expect Abbott to have 2015 sales of $23.7 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Abbott expects the deal to close in the third quarter and contribute to sales in the fourth quarter.
Barclays advised Abbott on the transaction and Deutsche Bank Securities advised CFR Pharmaceuticals.