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Charles River Labs (NYSE: CRL) defended its $1.6 billion acquisition of WuXi PharmaTech (NYSE: WX) by repeating its long-term strategic rationale for the transaction: the combined companies will be able to offer “full service, early-stage drug development on a global basis” to the world’s pharmaceutical companies.

The justification was made in an effort to quiet criticism of the deal made by Jana Partners, the activist hedge fund that bought 7% of Charles River. Jana Partners has publicly criticized the purchase, saying it did not make economic sense because WuXi’s margins and growth rate are both declining.

James C. Foster, CEO of Charles River, sent the response to Jana Partners in a private letter that was acquired by DealBook and reprinted in The New York Times (see story).

Foster also pointed out that WuXi PharmaTech has recorded growth of 40% in the last three years. China offers high quality drug development services at a “meaningful” savings, he continued.

Although WuXi PharmaTech is a much smaller company than Charles River, the $1.6 billion purchase price approached CRL’s market capitalization of $2.4 billion, though WuXi’s margins are higher. Charles River has also said the acquisition would only have a small effect on its earnings (see our original story on the deal).

When it announced the transaction, Charles River stock price took a 15% hit, falling $6.12 from $39.67 to $33.55. It has since recovered some of the loss and is currently trading at $35.89.

Disclosure: No positions

Source: Charles River Justifies Acquisition of WuXi PharmaTech