Meridian Medical sold to Tennessee company

King Pharmaceuticals Inc. pays $247.8 million cash

January 10, 2003|By Julie Bell | Julie Bell,SUN STAFF

King Pharmaceuticals Inc. said yesterday that it completed its $247.8 million acquisition of Meridian Medical Technologies Inc., a Columbia-based maker of prefilled drug injectors.

The Bristol, Tenn.-based company is paying Meridian stockholders $44.50 a share in cash. The firm is evaluating how to combine Meridian into its operations but plans no immediate changes, said James E. Green, a spokesman for King.

"We will operate as an independent, [wholly] owned subsidiary of King," said James H. Miller, the former Meridian chief executive officer, who will oversee the subsidiary and be an executive vice president. "Unless you're a shareholder," the acquisition isn't noticeable, he said.

Over time, however, King is likely to combine Meridian's St. Louis manufacturing operations into its plant in the same city, which has excess capacity, Green said. Meridian employs about 500 people overall, including 50 in Columbia and 400 in St. Louis, where it makes the company's penlike auto-injectors for self-administration of medicine.

Another 50 employees work in Northern Ireland, home of its cardiopulmonary diagnostics unit. That unit's products include devices for transmitting patients' vital signs over the phone and the Prime ECG electrocardiagram vest and software for diagnosing heart attacks. The Food and Drug Administration approved U.S. sales of Prime ECG last year.

Meridian is best known for its line of auto-injectors, including EpiPen to fight allergic reactions, and those filled with a nerve gas antidote and sold to the U.S. military.

The fact that the U.S. military is a large customer means "there may well be a sound basis for keeping some facilities" in Columbia, Green said. He declined to predict what might happen with Meridian's Northern Ireland operations.

King, a maker of generic and brand-name drugs, recently has been on an acquisition spree, picking up certain rights to three Aventis drugs for $199.5 million. It earned $84.2 million, or 35 cents a share, on $315.7 million in revenue for the third quarter that ended Sept. 30.

Meridian earned $2.4 million, or 46 cents per share, on revenue of $24.8 million in the first fiscal quarter that ended Oct. 31.

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