TRENTON, N.J. (AP) ¿ The burst of drugmaker mergers announced in the first quarter is worth nearly 50 percent more than all the industry deals announced in 2008, according to a new report.

Deals in the quarter had a combined value of $166 billion, more than 10 times the value of deals announced in last year's first quarter and well over the $114 billion in deals announced in all of 2008.

That's according to a report released Monday by The Mergermarket Group of New York and London.

First-quarter deals include three involving the 10 largest drugmakers.

The Roche Group bought the 44 percent of Genentech Inc. it didn't already own for $47 billion. Pfizer Inc. is buying Wyeth for $64 billion and Merck & Co. is buying Schering-Plough Corp. for $43 billion. Those deals are set to close in the fourth quarter.

Other sizable deals announced from January through March include Abbott Laboratories buying Advanced Medical Optics Inc. for $2.8 billion, including debt, and Gilead Sciences Inc. buying CV Therapeutics Inc. for $1.4 billion.

The report lists 15 other deals announced in that period, some of them involving medical device makers, plus 10 more that are expected and five "potential" deals. All but a half-dozen have expected values below $1 billion.

According to the report, some insiders don't see any more megadeals on the horizon and instead expect more "mid-market transactions" and deals valued below $5 billion.

One was announced Monday morning, in fact, with British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline PLC saying it will pay $2.9 billion to buy American dermatology business Stiefel Laboratories Inc.

Glaxo and some other major drugmakers, including Sanofi-Aventis SA and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., have been telling investors and analysts that they prefer to make smaller, targeted acquisitions that fit with their particular growth strategies.

The report predicts mergers and acquisitions will grow in the next few quarters in the stem-cell arena, following President Obama's executive order allowing use of federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

Venture capitalists and large drugmakers seeking to boost their stem-cell research capabilities are likely to invest in the field, according to the report. One potential target for big drugmakers is International Stem Cells Corp., which is doing early-stage testing of treatments using stem cells.
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