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Merck bids for AZ Electronic Materials to strengthen liquid crystals business

German pharmaceutical and chemicals firm Merck has offered to buy AZ Electronic Materials. Its bid for the UK-based materials manufacturer aims to bolster Merck’s position as the world’s top producer of liquid crystals.

Merck was offering AZ Electronic Materials shareholders 4.03 pounds (4.83 euros) per share in its bid to acquire at least 95 percent of the stock of the British materials manufacturer, the German family-controlled company announced Thursday.

AZ's board of directors would recommend that shareholders accept the offer, Merck said, which was about 41 percent higher than AZ's 3-month average share price.

Merck also said it would finance the acquisition - worth an estimated 1.6 billion pounds - with existing cash resources. The news sent AZ shares about 50 percent higher to 399 pence in trading at the London Stock Exchange on Thursday, and Merck shares to an all-time high of 129 euros in Frankfurt.

With the deal, Merck aims to expand its materials and specialty chemicals business. The company's chief financial officer Matthias Zachert told a media call that it underscored Merck's position as a diversified group, with the family behind it seeking to spread investment risk.

“Our philosophy has always been to never put all eggs in one basket,” he said.

AZ's chemicals are used to make flat panel displays in products ranging from TVs to smartphones. Merck, which is primarily known for producing cancer drugs and lab equipment, is also the world's largest manufacturer of liquid crystals for flat panel displays.

uhe/hc (Reuters, AP, dpa)