Amgen is eyeing heftier deals, but so are its biggest rivals

It's no secret that Amgen ($AMGN) is scouting for deals. And now, its CFO says, it's open to potentially larger deals than the ones it's made in the past.

Amgen CFO David Meline

"We're saying you shouldn't be surprised if we do" a transaction on the heftier side, CFO David Meline told Bloomberg, noting that Amgen these days is "more energetic about being out there."

But that doesn't mean the California biotech is going to jump at any large target that crosses its path. On the contrary, it turned down some potential moves in the second half of 2015 that weren't a perfect fit--and it plans to continue being selective.

"The hardest thing to do when you have money in the bank is to be disciplined," Meline told the news service.

That's amplified by the sound of investors pressuring the company to pull the trigger. Biopharma has been riding a red-hot deals streak over the past couple of years, and Amgen in particular could use a boost. Its blockbusters are high on the list for biosimilar copycats--Neupogen is already under attack in the U.S. from Novartis ($NVS) trailblazer Zarxio--and in 2014, it fueled a restructuring with a 1,100 job-chop that brought its layoff tally to 4,000. Some analysts have even lobbied for a breakup, a la Amgen's Big Pharma peers.

CEO Robert Bradway, though, hasn't been swayed into taking the plunge, with the company's last major deal coming in 2013. That acquisition--a $10.4 billion Onyx Pharmaceuticals buyout--brought along Kyprolis, a cancer drug whose patient pool Amgen has been working to widen.

So who might Amgen be targeting? Its recent commitment to home in on 6 therapeutic categories provides some clues, Bloomberg notes. Cardiovascular and neuroscience are new focus areas for the company; in the former, Amgen has only new PCSK9 med Repatha and heart failure drug Corlanor, and in the latter, the Thousand Oaks-based drugmaker has no approved products.

But Amgen will have some competition at the dealmaking table. The industry has long had its eyes trained on Gilead Sciences ($GILD), whose record-breaking hep C blockbusters have left it with a treasure trove of cash to work with. And analysts have suggested that Biogen ($BIIB)--whose growth is slowing thanks to pressure in the MS space--may need to "eat or be eaten," too.

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Special Reports: Top 15 pharma companies by 2014 revenue - Amgen | Pharma's top 10 M&A deals of 2013 - Amgen/Onyx

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