The European Commission on Monday approved
$5.1 billion offer to buy the shares of
that the Swiss drug giant doesn't already own.
The proposed purchase of 56% of Chiron's shares already has been cleared by the Federal Trade Commission, leaving approval by Chiron's shareholders as the last step in completing the deal. Chiron hasn't set a shareholder vote yet because its merger proxy must be approved by the
Securities and Exchange Commission
. Chiron, Emeryville, Calif., recently said it might hold the vote in March.
The acquisition must be approved by a majority of Chiron shares not held by Novartis. Four investment firms holding 17.5% of Chiron's shares -- and about 30% of the shares eligible to vote --
oppose the Novartis bid, saying it's too low. Novartis has offered $45 a share.
Shares of Chiron were off 6 cents to $45.60, and shares of Novartis declined 97 cents, or 1.7%, to $54.78.