AbbVie, Amgen and Sanofi could swoop in for AZ, but numbers may not work

AstraZeneca is none too thrilled with Pfizer's ($PFE) £58.8 billion ($98.7 billion) takeover proposal, it said Monday. Analysts do see some potential white knights that could offer up their own bids for the British drugmaker. But the problem for AstraZeneca is this: They don't match up as well as Pfizer does, they say.

Amgen ($AMGN), AbbVie ($ABBV) and Sanofi ($SNY) could be among the companies willing to swoop in for AstraZeneca ($AZN), Citigroup's Andrew Baum wrote in a note to investors Monday. But while those suitors might make sense strategically, given AstraZeneca's strengths in cancer and diabetes, the benefits just aren't there, Baum said, noting that AZ's "defense options are limited."

"In our view, … Sanofi cannot deliver the financial synergies and lacks a ready established products division (as a prelude to potential spin). We have highlighted potential merger of equals with Amgen and AbbVie but both lack the same financial synergies," he wrote (as quoted by Barron's).

Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher echoed that sentiment on the drugmaker's Q1 earnings call Tuesday, noting that "there are particular factors in the Pfizer-AstraZeneca one that wouldn't necessarily translate to the rest of the industry," he said. Those include the tax benefits Pfizer would reap by redomiciling to AstraZeneca's native England--benefits that wouldn't fully apply to France-based Sanofi.

Despite those synergies, AstraZeneca says it doesn't like Pfizer's plan, announcing Monday that the New York drugmaker's proposal "very significantly undervalued AstraZeneca and its prospects." As Bloomberg reports, while Baum says Pfizer could entice AZ with at least £50 per share, others say it could take more--perhaps closer to £60, Liberum analyst Naresh Chouhan wrote in a Monday note.

But Pfizer has some options, as the news service notes. It can up its offer to lure AZ into negotiations, embark on a hostile bid or drop the matter entirely. According to U.K. takeover law, Pfizer has about a month to make up its mind on how to proceed.

And in the meantime, AstraZeneca's assets could trigger other bids, Helvea analyst Odile Rundquist told Bloomberg. "AstraZeneca is attractive to many companies for its oncology pipeline as well as its emerging-markets footprint," she said.

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