Sources: AstraZeneca made lowball bid for Forest ahead of Actavis deal

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot

Last week, notorious proxy rebel Carl Icahn touted a victory for his activist investing strategy, taking credit for the management changes that ultimately drew Actavis ($ACT) as a buyer. And as it turns out, Forest Laboratories ($FRX) drew more than one interested buyer, with deal-hungry AstraZeneca ($AZN) making its own abortive pickup approach.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, the British drugmaker came to Forest with an offer of around $70 a share late last year, according to unnamed sources familiar with the matter. That's more than a little bit less than the $89.48 per share value the company locked up with Actavis' cash-and-stock deal.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot has been on the hunt for acquisitions for some time now in efforts to both juice up the company's pipeline and bring in additional revenue at the company's time of need. Since taking the reins at the flailing pharma in late 2012, he's picked up biotechs like Pearl Therapeutics, Amplimmune and Spirogen and forged numerous licensing deals and partnerships.

But in the wake of the generic onslaught on products like Seroquel, he's also been looking for more help in the here-and-now. He got some recently, with AZ's buyout of Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) share of their diabetes pact; the company now boasts sole ownership of drugs like newly approved Farxiga/Forxiga and Xigduo.

That won't be enough to turn things around, however, and the immediate future looks rocky. In the meantime, the company will carry on with a hefty cost-cutting plan--including more than 5,000 layoffs--and look forward to the light at the end of the tunnel.

"In the near term, these headwinds will remain challenging," Soriot said in a statement earlier this month. "However, I am confident that we can return to growth faster than anticipated."

That stands in contrast to Actavis CEO Paul Bisaro, who said the Forest deal should provide his company a double-digit earnings boost in 2015 and 2016.

- read the WSJ story (sub. req.)

Special Report: The top 10 largest pharma layoffs of 2013 - AstraZeneca

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