NPS is officially up for sale. Will deal-minded Shire bid?

After months of takeover speculation, New Jersey's NPS Pharmaceuticals is officially up for grabs. And now, all eyes are on rumored suitor Shire ($SHPG).

Bedminster-based NPS has brought on Goldman Sachs to help it strike a deal, and advisers have already begun contacting potential buyers to gauge their interest, The Wall Street Journal reports. With a standard takeover premium on top of its $3.8 billion market cap, NPS could fetch more than $4.5 billion, the paper figures.

Shire, which was reportedly prepping a bid for NPS when AbbVie ($ABBV) came calling last year, looks like a pretty good candidate to get in on the auction. For one, the company has been working to build up its rare-disease presence, which it's done through deals like 2013's pickup of ViroPharma. NPS, which specializes in therapies for gastrointestinal and endocrine disorders, would fit right in on that front.

Shire CEO Flemming Ornskov

CEO Flemming Ornskov, who's been an active acquirer since taking the helm in 2013, has also said multiple times since Shire's failed $55 billion merger with Illinois' AbbVie that his company is scouting. Dealmaking is "in our DNA," he told Reuters in January.

And the Dublin drugmaker has the cash to pull off an agreement. Including the $1.6 billion breakup fee AbbVie forked over after voiding their pact, Shire has about $13 billion to spend on pickups, Citi analysts estimated last month. That means it has plenty of room to go after NPS--and then some.

But if it does, it may want to wait until later this month. The rare-disease outfit is currently awaiting an FDA decision on Natpara, a hypoparathyroidism treatment that, if approved, would be the first med on the market for the potentially deadly disorder.

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