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The Associated Press

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — The new Merck & Co. became the world’s second-biggest drugmaker overnight, and it’s boasting a fat wallet to fund future deals.

The maker of vaccines and cholesterol and diabetes drugs bought Schering-Plough Corp.on Tuesday for $41.1 billion. Merck leapfrogged from No. 8 to No. 2 in the industry by revenue.

The company has about $8 billion in cash and investments and plans to keep investing in deals for rights to new drugs.

Merck says combining the companies – and slimming down the resulting staff of 106,000 employees – will save about $3.5 billion a year after 2011. But it expects the acquisition to boost profits slightly by next year and is forecasting profit growth in the high single digits for the next several years.

Merck operates a vaccine-manufacturing facility in Treyburn Corporate Park in Durham County.