Odds for a Pfizer-AZ matchup? All over the map, if you listen to analysts

Forget the odds on Thanksgiving Day football games. What's your bet on Pfizer ($PFE) lodging another bid for AstraZeneca ($AZN)?

The experts are all over the map. Last week, the prominent U.K. investor Neil Woodford said he sees a 50-50 chance that Pfizer will take another shot, now that the country's takeover rules allow it. The 6-month waiting period expired Tuesday, which means Pfizer could theoretically make an offer today.

But other investors and analysts figure on longer odds. London investors polled by the Financial Times voted for a 10% to 20% chance. Panmure Gordon's Savvas Neophytou set his range at 15% to 25%.

And while Jefferies analysts didn't handicap Pfizer's return for an AstraZeneca bid, they did say that Pfizer is likely to be engaged elsewhere. Maybe with Mylan ($MYL), the Pittsburgh, PA-based generics maker.

Sound unlikely? After all, Pfizer separated its "established products" business from the rest of its operations, with an eye to a possible sale or spinoff down the road. But till very recently, Pfizer was rumored to be eyeing an offer for Actavis ($ACT), a generics specialist turned brand hybrid, rather than going back for a possible humiliation from AstraZeenca. Until Actavis agreed to rescue Allergan ($AGN) from a Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($VRX) takeover, that is. Their $66 billion merger, announced last Monday, threw any Pfizer offer into the wind.

There are plenty of reasons for skepticism about a potential Pfizer-AstraZeneca deal. Obviously, AstraZeneca wants to keep flying solo; its investor day presentations last week made that very clear, once again. Meanwhile, Pfizer made a cancer immunotherapy deal with Merck KGaA--a big one, at up to $2.85 billion. One of the reasons Pfizer cited for its AstraZeneca bid was the U.K. company's own immuno-oncology candidate.

And then there's the other big reason behind Pfizer's first AstraZeneca bid: Tax inversion. Though Pfizer has said that new Treasury Department rules don't preclude a domicile-shifting deal like an AstraZeneca buy, CEO Ian Read admits that making the numbers work on any inversion is tougher now than it was back in May.

- read the FT story

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