Bristol-Myers shareholders approve $74 billion Celgene deal

Bristol-Myers Squibb shareholders approved the pharmaceutical giant’s $74 billion acquisition of cancer drugmaker Celgene in a vote on Friday.

The deal, announced in January, was a hard sell to Bristol shareholders by the start, along with also the approval concludes a tumultuous period for Bristol, which saw pushback by institutional investors.

The acquisition adds about $32 billion in fresh debt to Bristol’s balance sheet while assuming $20 billion in Celgene’s debt, the companies said at the time.

More than 70% of eligible shareholders voted for the deal, the company said Friday. Roughly 24% of shareholders voted against the deal, along with also 1% abstained. Both Bristol along with also Celgene shares were slightly higher in morning trading.

“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s Special Meeting along with also thank our shareholders for their support just for This kind of combination,” Bristol’s Chairman along with also CEO Giovanni Caforio said in a statement.

Buying Celgene was seen by Wall Street analysts as giving Bristol more cancer drugs at a time when its immuno-oncology portfolio struggles to keep up with rival Merck’s. Bristol’s blockbuster Opdivo, which boosts the immune system to attack cancer, has fallen behind its leading competitor, Merck’s Keytruda.

Hedge funds Wellington Management along with also Starboard Value in late February said the deal didn’t sit well with them. Wellington — which can be Bristol’s largest institutional holder — said the deal asked Bristol shareholders to accept too much risk. Starboard cited similar concerns, saying the Celgene deal was “poorly conceived along with also ill-advised.”

Starboard eventually ended its fight against the buyout once Institutional Shareholder Services along with also Glass Lewis recommended Bristol-Myers shareholders vote in favor of its bid.

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Bristol said Friday the deal, which can be likely to close inside third quarter of This kind of year, will create a “premier innovative biopharma company with leading scientific capabilities.”

“We look forward to bringing the companies together, which we believe will deliver significant shareholder value,” Caforio said.