Is rumored pharma target Bausch + Lomb aiming for an IPO instead?

Big Pharma CEOs are throwing cold water on expectations for more medium-sized M&A this year. While analysts see promise for $10 billion deals, executives from Novartis ($NVS) to the newly independent AbbVie ($ABBV) to Sanofi ($SNY) say smaller is beautiful. And now, the CEO of a supposed Big Pharma target--Bausch + Lomb--tells Reuters that he'd prefer to go public rather than sell out.

Now owned by the private equity firm Warburg Pincus, Bausch + Lomb is reportedly up for sale, with one major drugmaker after another rumored to be shopping at the eye-care company. Sanofi, Merck ($MRK), Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) (not to be confused with the spun-off AbbVie) are all rumored to be interested parties. Reported asking price? $10 billion or more.

But at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, Bausch + Lomb CEO Brent Saunders said he's "aspiring to return to public markets," the news service reports. Saunders declined to comment on the reports of a possible sale.

As Reuters notes, some sources have said Warburg Pincus may choose to take Bausch + Lomb public rather than sell the company. And if Saunders really prefers an IPO to a deal, then he must be heartened by the pharma CEOs' comments at J.P. Morgan. If those assessments hold true, then Warburg Pincus may not be able to collect its $10 billion toll--giving Saunders a better chance at his aspirations.

- read the Reuters news

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