Analysts: Avanir could have scored higher bids--but now, its hands may be tied

Avanir, which agreed to sell itself to Otsuka earlier this week for $3.5 billion, may have been able to snag another price, some analysts figure. Problem is, it may too late to do anything about it.

As Jefferies Group's Thomas Wei sees it, Avanir could have scored $26 to $31 per share in a takeover, rather than the $17 a share it decided on with Otsuka. And that could have meant an additional $1.7 billion for Avanir shareholders, Bloomberg reports.

Cowen Group analyst Ritu Baral agreed, calling Otsuka's bid "underwhelming" in a note seen by the news service.

While counterbidders could still swoop in, Avanir has inked a pact not to seek them out, Bloomberg notes. And if it opts out of the Otsuka agreement, it'll be forced to fork over $90 million to the Japanese drugmaker.

Cowen Group analyst Ritu Baral

So shareholders will have to hope for an unsolicited higher bid if they want something more to line their pockets. And while Baral said she sees "no evidence" of other potential bidders at this point, she thinks there could have been some out there.

Take Teva ($TEVA), which has made recent investments in CNS products, or Actavis ($ACT), which bought Forest Labs earlier this year to pick up Alzheimer's treatment Namenda. Either could be interested in gaining access to Avanir's Neudexta, the only approved treatment for the neurologic disease pseudobulbar affect. The company is currently testing the fast-growing drug, which won't see generic competition for at least 12 years, to treat agitation in Alzheimer's patients--a much larger market, Bloomberg notes.

Lundbeck, Mallinckrodt ($MNK) and Shire ($SHPG) could also make logical buyers, JMP Group analyst Jason Butler told the news service in October. Lundbeck and Mallinckrodt both boast brain-disease treatments, while ADHD expert Shire--seeking deals of its own after the collapse of a merger with Illinois' AbbVie ($ABBV)--could add to its growing rare-disease lineup.

Indeed, another interested buyer approached Avanir back in September, an unnamed source told Bloomberg. But that company dropped out of the running when positive Phase II data for another version of Neudexta sent shares soaring, triggering an 85% one-day leap that put the deal out of range for Avanir's suitor, the source said.

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