Abbott Laboratories received antitrust approval on Tuesday for its $25 billion purchase of St. Jude Medical, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said.
 
Many viewed the deal as controversial as it would merge two dominant players within the cardiovascular care field. Taking those concerns into consideration, the FTC said it would grant approval on one condition: the companies divest themselves of all assets related to their vascular closure device businesses and “steerable” sheaths businesses.
 
In the case of vascular closure devices—which are used to close holes in arteries created during catheter insertion—Abbott and St. Jude would control a combined 70-plus percent of the market.
 
The FTC also found that St. Jude had a “near-monopoly” in the market for steerable sheaths, which are used to guide catheters during heart arrhythmia treatment. The two companies would ultimately “eliminate any competition between them,” the FTC said.
 
This condition to sell off these businesses likely won’t be a difficult obstacle for the companies to overcome. In October, Abbott Park, Illinois-based Abbott and Little Canada-based St. Jude likely announced they had found a buyer in Terumo Corp. The Japanese company agreed to buy Abbott and St. Jude’s respective vascular assets for $1.12 billion.
 
In addition to the divestiture, Abbott also is required to notify the FTC of any intention to acquire lesion-assessing ablation catheter assets from Advanced Cardiac Therapeutics (ACT). More than two years ago, Abbott had secured rights to purchase ACT, which produces the lesion devices that provide feedback to physicians during catheter application.
 
“Currently, only St. Jude and one other company provide lesion-assessing ablation catheters in the United States,” the FTC said in its release. “After the acquisition of St. Jude, if Abbott acquired lesion assessing ablation catheter assets from ACT, it could eliminate additional competition.”
 
Additionally, the FTC said its consent agreement on the lesion device issue would be open to public comment for 30 days. After that time, and depending on what complaints are received, the FTC will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final.
 
In 2015, Abbott reported more than $20.4 billion in revenue and said it employed about 74,000 people worldwide. St. Jude reported 2015 revenues of $5.54 billion and said it has a staff of roughly 18,000 workers.
 
The announcement of St. Jude’s sale to Abbott was made in late April. Abbott said it expects to pay for St. Jude through a mix of cash on hand and a $15.1 billion debt offering.

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