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Bristol-Myers might just make a big deal, WSJ says

Drugmaker has browsed Biogen Idec, Shire
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Elliott Sigal, BMS' R&D chief--Courtesy of Bristol-Myers Squibb

If AstraZeneca ($AZN) decides it needs a big acquisition to get out of the doldrums, it may find itself competing with Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY). The Wall Street Journal reports that Bristol-Myers has been kicking tires around the industry, most recently at Biogen Idec ($BIIB).

The Journal's sources say BMS looked closely at a Biogen buyout in recent months. Before that, it hired financial advisers to analyze a possible deal for Shire ($SHPG). Biogen has a $39 billion market cap; Shire's is about $18 billion.

That's a far cry from the string-of-pearls strategy that ex-CEO James Cornelius designed to restock the company's pipeline. But some of those pearls haven't paid off, most notably Inhibitex. Bristol-Myers paid $2.5 billion for that company and its once-quite-promising hepatitis C drug; months later, it had to stop a a trial after patients died. It wrote off the drug and took a $1.8 billion charge.

If other new Bristol-Myers products pay off--such as the melanoma drug Yervoy and the newly approved clot-fighter Eliquis--and its pipeline of other medications for cancer and hepatitis C comes through, then a big deal might not be necessary. Its newly beefed-up diabetes partnership with AstraZeneca could help, too.

Either way, BMS will be buying, R&D chief Elliott Sigal told the WSJ. It's always looking for promising drugs that complement its own portfolio, and it would particularly like to bring in drugs for congestive heart failure and fibrosis.

- read the WSJ piece

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