Matchmaking for Shire and AbbVie already? Try Allergan (of course) and Pfizer

Now that AbbVie ($ABBV) has said it wants to dump Shire ($SHPG), we could soon have two companies back on the market--and both could prove popular as the dust settles. In fact, as Bloomberg reports, AbbVie could make a decent second choice to AstraZeneca ($AZN) if Pfizer ($PFE) so chooses.

And do we have to mention the fact that Allergan ($AGN) might be happy to step in where AbbVie is stepping out? A Shire-Allergan merger has been chatted about for some time, after all. And Allergan would dearly love to make a deal to help defend itself against Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($VRX), which is determined to come in and take over.

Allergan reportedly has lost its chance to snap up Salix ($SLXP), which is now in talks with Actavis ($ACT) instead. With Shire back in play, it may be Allergan's best chance to fix its Valeant problem. Provided all the legal snarls with Valeant and its buyout partner Bill Ackman could be ironed out, of course.

Pfizer CEO Ian Read

The idea of Pfizer turning away from AstraZeneca to nab AbbVie isn't new, either. But with the Obama administration's new tax inversion limits, the Pfizer-AZ combo looks less favorable, just as AbbVie's Shire buyout does. So, if Pfizer CEO Ian Read doesn't fancy a new fight in the U.K. next month--and can't persuade AZ to come quietly--then it may want to turn toward Chicago instead.

Meanwhile, Shire could turn around and become a buyer again, too. If Actavis doesn't nab Salix, then Shire might step in. Both have gastrointestinal meds, offering some synergies. Jefferies analyst David Steinberg reminds Bloomberg that Shire has been on an acquisition trail, with one smallish deal after another. It could continue to be a "serial consolidator" in the orphan drug business.

Of course, AbbVie may just be trying to squeeze Shire on price, so the deal might find new life. As analyst David Amsellem tells Bloomberg, "The transaction is very much alive," Amsellem said. "It's just a question of price, if it's not an inversion."

- see the Bloomberg story

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