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Fitch Reaffirms Bristol-Myers Squibb Ratings

NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Fitch Ratings affirmed Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s ratings Thursday and said the outlook for the company remains "Stable," citing moves by Bristol-Myers to offset the potential loss of future revenue as blockbuster drugs lose patent protection.

Earlier Thursday, the New York-based company said it completed its initial tender offer for shares of Medarex Inc., a biotechnology rival it agreed to buy for $2.1 billion earlier this summer. The company said 87.7 percent of Medarex stock, or a total of 119 million shares, were tendered.

Fitch reaffirmed 'A+', or investment-grade, ratings for Bristol-Myers' long-term issuer default rating, senior unsecured debt, and bank loan. The ratings apply to about $6.4 billion of outstanding debt.

Fitch said Bristol-Myers has streamlined its product portfolio and mentioned the potential for sales of the diabetes drug Onglyza. The company will likely see sales of its high blood pressure drug Avapro and blood-thinner Plavix fall after 2011 as patents expire. That will open the door to generic competition, cutting into revenue for both drugs.

"Fitch believes that operational strength, coupled with a solid intellectual property position, will improve financial metrics in the intermediate term, as Bristol-Myers Squibb is relatively free of intellectual property losses in the U.S.," the ratings agency said in a statement.

Shares of Bristol-Myers fell 15 cents to $22.76 in midday trading.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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