Wyeth shareholders vote to be acquired by Pfizer

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As expected, shareholders of drugmaker Wyeth on Monday voted overwhelmingly to be acquired by industry giant Pfizer Inc.

More than 98 percent of Wyeth stockholders voted to approve the $68 billion acquisition. The deal will solidify Pfizer’s position as the top-selling drug maker in the world.

For New York-based Pfizer, the deal transforms the company overnight from being primarily a maker of the blockbuster pills to a one-stop shop for medical treatments. That’s because Wyeth brings multibillion-dollar products and substantial expertise in researching and manufacturing biologic drugs, vaccines, nonprescription medicines and animal health products.

The combination adds Wyeth’s blockbuster children’s vaccine Prevnar and biologic rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel to Pfizer staples such as impotence pill Viagra and cholesterol fighter Lipitor, the world’s best-selling drug with about $12.5 billion a year in revenue.

The deal, announced on Jan. 26, still needs some regulatory approvals.

It is one of three mega mergers in the industry announced this year. Swiss drugmaker the Roche Group has already acquired the portion of biotech drug developer Genentech that it didn’t already own, and Merck & Co. is poised to acquire its New Jersey neighbor, Schering-Plough Corp.

Wyeth’s shareholders cast their votes while gathered at their annual meeting at a hotel near the company headquarters in Madison, N.J., although most votes were cast in advance, many by retirement funds and other large institutional investors.

“I have mixed feelings” about the deal, Chief Executive and Chairman Bernard Poussot told shareholders at the northern New Jersey hotel or listening via a Webcast.

Poussot, who will leave once the acquisition is complete, explained that he had spent years at Wyeth, building up a strong executive team and focusing the company on scientific research.

The tally came after he told shareholders that Wyeth had the vision to jump into biologic drugs more than a decade ago, build up its vaccine and infant nutrition businesses, and otherwise diversify the company.

Rivals at the top of the pharmaceutical industry are now rushing to do exactly that, and Wyeth’s array of technologies and products made it appealing to Pfizer when its CEO, Jeff Kindler, was looking to do a big deal.

“Pfizer, as you know, aggressively pursued us for over seven months,” Poussot said.

In morning trading, Wyeth shares were down a dime at $45.87, while Pfizer shares fell 14 cents to $14.82.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.