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US aerospace giant Boeing has unveiled a record $10 billion (£6.1 billion) share buyback and 50 per cent hike in the dividend.

Monsanto $26bn merger gets cool reception

THERE WAS only a lukewarm reception on Wall Street yesterday to news confirming the merger of Monsanto with its US-Swedish rival Pharmacia & Upjohn to create a new drugs giant. As several brokerages downgraded Monsanto from a "buy" to "neutral", shares in the company turned downward.

Monsanto $27bn merger gets cool reception

THERE WAS only a lukewarm reception on Wall Street yesterday to news confirming the merger of Monsanto with its US-Swedish rival Pharmacia & Upjohn to create a new drugs giant. As several brokerages downgraded Monsanto from a "buy" to "neutral", shares in the company turned downward.

Monsanto merger with P&U nears

MONSANTO, THE pharmaceuticals giant and Pharmacia & Upjohn, the Swedish drugmaker, are believed to be close to agreement on a mooted $55bn merger following a series of top level meetings in London over the weekend.

Outlook: Leschly to go

SO FAREWELL then, Jan Leschly, Britain's first pounds 15m-a-year chief executive. London's corporate scene will be a greyer and duller place without the former Danish tennis star to entertain us. But, hey, who cares if it hastens the eventual, and in the City's view, inevitable, merger between Mr Leschly's SmithKline Beecham and Glaxo Wellcome. That, in any case, was the stock market's reaction to final confirmation yesterday that Mr Leschly will be hanging up his racket at the AGM next April, six months earlier than his official retirement date.

On the Up: SmithKline Beecham

SMITHKLINE BEECHAM was back at the top of speculators' lists of likely takeover targets after an $80bn (pounds 49.4bn) battle for Warner-Lambert in the US rekindled expectations of industry consolidation.

Outlook: Drug consolidation

WITH PFIZER's $80bn bid for Warner Lambert, we seem to be entering the final end game of pharmaceutical industry consolidation. Sir Richard Sykes, chairman of Glaxo Wellcome, has long held the view that the industry will eventually boil down to five or six research and development powerhouses, with market shares of perhaps as high as 10 per cent each for the global market in prescribed drugs. Underneath them will be a larger number of smaller, more specialist bio-tech and drug discovery companies.

Glaxo mulls fresh SKB bid as merger mania sweeps industry

GLAXO WELLCOME is considering reopening talks over a pounds 100bn-plus merger with its arch-rival SmithKline Beecham in a bid to respond to the wave of consolidation sweeping the US drug industry.

The Investment Column: New drugs at Alliance Unichem make it an intoxicating buy

ALLIANCE UNICHEM, the drug wholesaler and retailer whose chairman is Kenneth Clarke, the former chancellor, has set its sights high. Things are going so well for the company, formed from an Anglo-French merger in 1997, that it reckons it can raise its market share from the current 16 per cent to 30 per cent in the next three to five years.

Focus: The billion-dollar fight for life

ALL HUMAN beings suffer from an incurable disease. It is called mortality. Although the condition is terminal there are increasing signs its early symptoms may be treatable. Ageing cannot be reversed but it may, perhaps, be delayed.

Firms race to find a Viagra for women

A GLOBAL race to develop the first effective treatment for sexual problems in women is under way, with a bonanza in prospect for the winner. Since the worldwide success of Viagra, the male impotence drug, multinational drug companies are vying to develop a treatment that will prove as appealing to women.

Avandia leads SmithKline to growth

SMITHKLINE BEECHAM, the pharmaceutical giant, is heading into a "phenomenal" growth cycle similar to that before the 1994 demise of its blockbuster ulcer drug Tagamet, its chief executive said yesterday.

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