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Ligand to acquire Vernalis in £32.8M deal

San Diego-based Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc. has made an offer to acquire a biotechnology company in the U.K. engaged in the discovery of new drugs.

Ligand is offering 6.2 pence per share for Vernalis PLC, valuing the target company at £32.8 million. The acquisition is subject to the approval of Vernalis shareholders.

The acquisition will provide Ligand with access to eight partnered programs, including those in the respiratory, oncology and central nervous system sectors, as well as a 70-person research and development team based in Cambridge, U.K.

The deal will also help the American drugmaker pursue investment and acquisition opportunities in Europe and the U.K., it said in a statement.

Vernalis initiated a strategic review of the company in March and had been exploring a potential sale of the business. The company is moving toward closing its U.S.-based operations and remains on track to complete the closure by Sept. 30.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2018, assuming Vernalis shareholders approve it.

MTS Securities LLC and finnCap Ltd. are serving as financial advisers, and Latham Watkins LLP is serving as legal adviser to Ligand in this transaction.