Drug distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp. (ABC - Get Report) on Monday moved aggressively into the animal health market, announcing plans to acquire MWI Veterinary Supply Inc. (MWIV) for $2.5 billion.

Terms of the deal call for Valley Forge, Pa.-based AmerisourceBergen to pay $190 per share in cash for MWI, a premium of nearly 9% to the target's Friday close. The buyer said it would fund the deal with cash and long-term debt, with the companies' hopeful to close in the first half of the year.

MWI, of Boise, is a distributor of more than 50,000 animal health products throughout the U.S. and the U.K. The company reported Ebitda of $132.97 million on sales of $2.98 billion in the twelve months ending Sept. 30, 2014.

AmerisourceBergen currently has no presence in animal health, but sees opportunities to apply its logistics expertise and global reach to MWI's operations to spark growth. This by far would be the company's largest deal since the 2001 transaction that combined AmeriSource Health Corp. with Bergen Brunswig Corp.

"Animal health is a growing market in the U.S. and internationally, and is a logical extension of our pharmaceutical distribution and services businesses," AmerisourceBergen CEO Steven H. Collis said in a statement. "MWI is the premier supply chain company in animal health, with leading positions in both the companion and production markets, and we are very excited to have them join."

MWI is a one-time portfolio company of buyout firm Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co. LLC, which bought the company in June 2002 and took it public in 2005. MWI chief executive Jim Cleary in a statement said "this transaction represents a terrific opportunity for MWI and our stakeholders," saying "we look forward to continuing our success as part of AmerisourceBergen."

Tom Monaghan and Steven Frank of JP Morgan Chase & Co. joined with a Dechert LLP team including Stephen Leitzell, Edward Lemanowicz, Abbi Cohen and James Fishkin to advise MWI.

AmerisourceBergen was advised by Michael McIvor, Brian McCarthy and Justin Walter of Bank of America Merrill Lynch and a Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP team led by Damien Zoubek and Robert Townsend III.

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