BASEL, Switzerland (AP) -- Novartis AG said Tuesday it has completed the first stage of its $38 billion takeover of U.S. eye-care company Alcon Inc.
The Swiss pharmaceuticals company paid current majority shareholder Nestle SA $10.4 billion cash for a 25 percent stake in Alcon. That is about $200 million less than when the deal was originally announced in April.
Novartis still has the exclusive right to buy Nestle's remaining 52 percent stake in Alcon for about $28 billion between January 2010 and July 2011.
The second step is optional, but both companies would have to agree not to exercise their rights for the deal to fall through.
The sale of Texas-based Alcon, which makes Opti-Free contact lens solution and has 14,500 employees worldwide, is the largest takeover in Swiss history.
Alcon's turnover last year was $5.6 billion, with a net profit of $1.6 billion.
Novartis shares fell 0.4 percent at 57.80 Swiss francs ($56.54) in Zurich. Nestle shares dipped 1.1 percent to 45.44 francs ($44.46).