Another Pfizer run at AZ? Unlikely, Reuters' sources say. But keep an eye on Actavis

With Pfizer's ($PFE) eligibility to bid again for AstraZeneca ($AZN) nearing, the drug giant seems unlikely to make another run at its one-time target, industry-watchers say. But that doesn't mean it isn't prepping a run at someone else.

As Nov. 26--the day it can pick up where it left off in its pursuit of AZ, as per U.K. takeover rules--approaches, Pfizer has been going through its takeover options with a U.S. investment bank, Reuters' sources say. And that includes a long, hard look at the benefits of a tax-saving deal to buy Dublin drugmaker Actavis ($ACT).

New, stricter U.S. tax rules have made it less desirable for American companies to complete tax inversion deals--see: the $55 billion AbbVie ($ABBV)-Shire ($SHPG) deal collapse. But "the truth is that Pfizer has never stopped looking at targets in Europe after the AstraZeneca debacle," one banker told the news service. And the fact that "the hurdles are now getting bigger and bigger" for an AZ merger makes Actavis more attractive, despite the fact that a Pfizer-Actavis combo doesn't hold the same synergies and oncology opportunities that an AZ tie-up might.

But the Irish pharma may have some pickup plans of its own. As Bloomberg reported this week, Actavis could play the white knight role in ongoing hostile bid saga between Allergan ($AGN) and predator Valeant ($VRX). While there's about a $3 billion gap between the price Allergan wants and the price Actavis wants to pay, the news service's sources say a deal could still happen in as little as two weeks' time.

Of course, there's still the possibility that Pfizer could come back again for its former takeover interest, though Norbert Janisch, portfolio manager at Raiffeisen Capital Management in Vienna, told Reuters he would not put the probability of a new bid for AZ at more than a 20% to 30% probability.

If it did so, "I am pretty sure that no one at AstraZeneca is ready to agree a friendly deal," one banker told the news service. But analysts don't see AZ's board coming to the table for less than £60 per share, Reuters notes, and Pfizer's "final" offer last May tallied £55 per share.

- get more from Reuters

Special Reports: The top 10 pharma companies by 2013 revenue - Pfizer - AstraZeneca - GSK | Pharma's top 10 M&A deals of 2013 - Actavis/Warner Chilcott