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Top Biopharma M&A Deals - 2012

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From a strictly numbers point of view, last year's results are pretty obvious. As the accompanying chart indicates, 2012 was the slowest in 5 years in terms of both number of deals and dollars on the table.

To Christian Dokomajilar, manager and senior biotech analyst at Deloitte Recap, that actually bodes well for 2013. Having digested some of the largest acquisitions in pharma history, gotten costs out and much of the patent cliff behind them, pharma and biotech execs may again be ready to tango.

 "There are only so many megacompanies you can acquire in a given period," Dokomajilar says.

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He points to deals like Pfizer's ($PFE) $68 billion acquisition of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in 2009, or Merck ($MRK) paying $41.1 billion the same year for Schering-Plough. Just a couple of years ago, Sanofi ($SNY) bought Genzyme for $20 billion."M&A is definitely in a period of consolidation as far as pharma is concerned," after some of the megamergers of recent years.

There are endless ways to slice and dice the major mergers and acquisitions of the year, but I like the way EvaluatePharma lines it out. It takes those that have closed in the year. It is nice and simple and filters out any equivocation over deals announced but not yet through the legal machinery to the finish line. We used its numbers for a reference point. As they show, 2011 had 70 more deals worth nearly 40% more than in 2012. And the big year in the last 5 was 2009, when there were not only 25 more deals, 169 vs 146, but the values were much higher. M&A activity in 2009 totaled $142 billion compared to just $57 billion in 2012.

Dokomajilar, who uses his own figures to track M&A, has some other astute observations about 2012. He points out that the "appetite for buying mature companies continued." Target companies with their most advanced therapeutic products in Phase II trials, and those with marketed products, made up even larger percentages of deals in 2012, 35% and 45% respectively, than they had in the past 5 years.

He also observes that the "contingent-structure M&A deal type" were not more prevalent as some had expected them to be. By his count, only 10% of all mergers and acquisitions in the category had a contingent component. "However, we did see an increasing, fairly new deal structure, the call option or option to acquire," he said.

"The numbers by themselves are not that important. What is more important is the dollars and structure of the deals," Dokomajilar says. With the economic turmoil in the last two to three years, he sees deals more focused on things like options to buy after a licensing.

"Things like these come out when money gets tight," he said. "What we are seeing is smarter deals being done."

Below find a list of the top 10 deals in 2012. As always, let us know if you have any questions or comments. -- Eric Palmer (email | Twitter)