US antitrust regulators close to approving Abbott-St. Jude Medical deal

US antitrust regulators are close to approving Abbott Laboratories' proposed acquisition of medical device maker St. Jude Medical Inc, Reuters yesterday reported, citing two sources knowledgeable about the deal.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would approve the deal as early as this week or next, the report said.

It was not immediately known what conditions the FTC would require but Abbott had in October said that the companies would sell some of their medical devices to Japan-based Terumo Corp for about $1.12 billion in order to complete the deal, the report added.

The European regulator had in November approved the deal on condition that Abbott divests two devices used in cardiovascular treatments. (See: European regulator conditionally approves Abbott's $25-bn deal for St Jude Medical) In April, Abbott agreed to buy St Jude Medical for $25 billion in order strengthen its heart and neurological devices business.

Abbott has recently been selling non-core businesses and strengthening its core business through acquisitions in order to focus on its cardiovascular devices and diagnostics business.

Earlier this year, it sold its medical optics division to Johnson & Johnson for $4.3 billion and proposed to buy diagnostic test maker Alere Inc for $5.8 billion.

But it is trying to terminate the Alere deal citing "substantial loss" in the value of the company since the merger agreement was signed in February. (See: Abbott seeks to terminate $5.8-bn acquisition of Alere) After the deal was announced, the US Department of Justice served Alere two separate subpoenas based on its investigations into Alere's sales practices, and patient-billing records related to Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare. The company lost reimbursement on its Medicare business.

Alere also delayed filing its financial statements for six months and disclosed probes into billing and foreign sales practices.

In July, the US health regulator forced Alere to recall a device used to monitor levels of a widely used blood thinner because it was found to generate faulty results.