CVS Corp. boosted its offer Thursday for Caremark Rx Inc. for a third time, just a day after rival bidder Express Scripts Inc. upped its offer for the pharmacy benefits manager.
Each of the bids, which include stock and cash, are now valued at roughly $26.5 billion based on afternoon stock prices.
The bidding began last November when the drugstore operator CVS offered $21.2 billion in stock for Caremark. Express Scripts joined the fray in December.
CVS is adding $1.50 to its earlier special cash dividend offer of $6 a share payable to Caremark shareholders following closing of the merger. That adds roughly $643 million to its earlier bid, which also include stock.
CVS also said if the deal is closed, the combined company will make a cash tender offer of $35 a share for 150 million, or about 10 percent, of its outstanding shares.
Pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts on Wednesday improved its bid to acquire Caremark, saying it would boost the cash portion by about 0.481 cents a day starting April 1 until the deal is closed.
CVS said its latest proposal constitutes a “best and final” offer.
The drug store retailer also announced it has set a shareholder vote on the deal for March 15. Caremark shareholders will meet at the company’s headquarters in Nashville for the same purpose on March 16.
Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS, the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain, opened the bidding for Caremark on Nov. 1.
In December, Maryland Heights, Mo.-based Express Scripts made a $26 billion stock and cash bid for Caremark, but the company rejected it.
CVS countered by sweetening its stock offer with a $2 per share cash dividend and later upped the bid again by offering a $6 per share cash dividend.
Shares of Caremark rose 40 cents to $61.70 on the New York Stock Exchange.