Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis (NVS) - Get Report has agreed to buy German firm Hexal AG and U.S.-based Eon Labs (ELAB) in a combined deal worth about $8.3 billion that will make Novartis the world's leading generic drug supplier.

Eon and Hexel will be merged into Novartis' Sandoz unit, which will have combined pro forma 2004 sales of approximately $5.1 billion, a portfolio consisting of more than 600 drugs and employ over 20,000 people worldwide, according to a press release Monday.

Both transactions involve Santo Holding, a firm controlled by the Strungmann family of Germany which has a majority interest in Hexal and Eon; Thomas Strungmann is Eon's chairman.

Novartis will acquire Santo's two-thirds stake in Eon - about 60 million shares - for $1.7 billion in cash and will buy Hexas for an estimated 4.35 billion euros (about $5.6 billion) in cash. In addition, Novartis will commence a cash tender offer to but publicly held shares of Eon common stock not held by Santo at a price of $31 each, which adds another $1 billion to the price tag, according to the Associated Press.

Eon shares closed Friday at $27.92.

Eon also reported Monday that its fourth-quarter profit grew to $30.2 million, or 33 cents a share, from $19.2 million, or 21 cents a share, as revenue grew nearly 16% to $110 million.