AstraZeneca CEO says Pfizer won't come back. Oh, and that $45B goal? It's a stretch

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot

Pascal Soriot must be feeling confident. In one interview published over the weekend, the AstraZeneca ($AZN) CEO pooh-poohed the idea of Pfizer ($PFE) coming back with another takeover bid. In another, he gave a subtle warning about his company's stated goal of hitting $45 billion in sales within a decade.

"I consider it unlikely that Pfizer will return with a bid," Soriot told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri in an interview published Saturday, going on to point out that new U.S. Treasury rules diminished the tax advantages of Pfizer's proposed merger.

"I can't say it will never happen, but the probability that Pfizer returns is much less," Soriot said.

Then, in an interview with The Times, Soriot took a step backward from AstraZeneca's $45 billion sales goal. The company would be "lucky" to hit that number, Soriot said. "We know [pipeline drugs] are going to fail," he told the London daily. "If we had a 100% success rate, we'd sell more than $45 billion but we'd find it very challenging to fund the launch of all these products."

Had Soriot not been confident of the former, he probably wouldn't mention the latter. That $45 billion sales goal was among Soriot's defenses against Pfizer's $118 billion buyout offer. That bid failed in May, and since then, market-watchers have been speculating on the odds of another from the U.S.-based drug giant. A mandated hiatus in deal talks expired last month, but Pfizer hasn't yet shown up at AstraZeneca's door.

Still, Soriot isn't alone in either assessment. Though Pfizer hasn't ruled out the idea of another bid, analysts figure than the U.S.-based drug giant might be better served by a different deal, with AbbVie ($ABBV) as one potential target. And when Soriot initially rolled out that $45 billion figure, some analysts tabbed it as a pie-in-the-sky goal.

Don't expect Soriot to give up on his push toward $45 billion, however. He knows he has to keep his promise to make AstraZeneca more valuable as a solo act than it would have been under Pfizer's control. He's just urging investors not to be fixated on the number, saying that AstraZeneca's profits and product mix are more important. "If I don't deliver the value, I assume I'm not going to be around," he told the Times.

- read the Dagens Industri story (in Swedish)
- get more from The Times
- see the Reuters brief

Special Report: Top 10 pharma companies by 2013 revenue - AstraZeneca - Pfizer