Lockheed eyes more international sales

With defense budgets tightening, the Pentagon’s largest defense contractor is looking to expand its international sales and boost funding for internal research and development, Lockheed Martin chief executive Marillyn Hewson told reporters in a speech Monday.

She said the Bethesda-based company plans to increase its international sales from 17 percent of its total sales, or about $8 billion, to 20 percent in the next year or so. In the past six months, she has traveled to the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Poland, Germany, Singapore and Japan.

The company also plans to increase research and development funding by 5 percent this year over the $700 million it spent last year, when it increased the funding by 13 percent.

Her comments came ahead of the international debut of the F-35 Lightning II fighter, which is scheduled to fly at two air shows outside London in July. The company has been aggressively seeking international sales of the jet to help offset costs of what has become the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program.

“Our international expansion will fuel our company’s sustainable growth, bring economies of scale and the associated savings to our domestic and international customers, and enable a strong, safer future for our nation and allies around the world,” Hewson said during the company’s annual “media day” event.

— Christian Davenport

Merck to buy Idenix for $3.85 billion

Merck & Co. will spend about $3.85 billion for Idenix Pharmaceuticals, a small company developing hepatitis C medicines that, together with Merck’s experimental drugs, could produce lucrative combination therapies that quickly cure most patients with the blood-borne virus afflicting tens of millions.

Idenix stockholders will get $24.50 a share in cash, Merck said in a statement Monday. The price is more than triple Idenix’s closing level of $7.23 on Friday. The premium is a record for health-care deals larger than $100 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Buying Idenix will help Merck in the competition to develop a daily, all-oral regimen that treats different strains of the viral infection and does not include ribavirin, a standard therapy for hepatitis C that has serious side effects.

In April, Merck said its once-a-day hepatitis C pill, made up of two drugs, stopped the virus in a mid-stage study in 98 percent of newly treated patients.

Merck shares gained less than 1 percent to $57.94 at the close in New York. Idenix shares more than tripled to $23.79.

— From news services

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