Will he or won't he? Pfizer CEO scouts big deals, but 'silent' on AstraZeneca rebid

Pfizer CEO Ian Read

No news isn't good or bad for Pfizer deal-watchers. It's just no news. Anyone hoping for a halfway-clear idea of CEO Ian Read's next buyout move was disappointed after Tuesday's second-quarter earnings call with analysts.

Read was committedly non-committal, particularly about his desire--or lack of desire--for another run at AstraZeneca ($AZN). "We continue to look at all types of business development, regardless of size, that we believe would add value to shareholders," Read said during the call.

As for Pfizer's ($PFE) previous-and-failed bid for its British rival, Read would only say that he and his shareholders believe the company made the right move in walking away in May. "[W]e exercised good financial discipline," Read said.

And now? Pfizer isn't "working" on an AstraZeneca deal at the moment. "It's a very complicated legal situation" with U.K. takeover rules barring Pfizer from another bid till November, Read said, "so it's best to remain silent."

In other words, Pfizer isn't actively pursuing an AZ deal--but if it was, it wouldn't tell you anyway.

Analysts still say AstraZeneca is Pfizer's best possible deal partner, what with the tax benefits of "moving" to the U.K., the pipeline benefits, and the cost-cutting opportunities. Citi analyst Andrew Baum, for one, figures Pfizer will make another bid by year's end--a bid of more than £60 per share if it's to be successful.

Sphera Fund's Ori Hershkovitz "definitely" thinks Pfizer will come back. "Pfizer is in a very desperate spot, having seen most of its pipeline disappoint and facing multiple patent expirations," Hershkovitz says (as quoted by This Is Money). "It needs growth; it needs to buy a pipeline."

Of course, AstraZeneca isn't the only option. Pfizer might go big with another merger-of-semi-equals. It might snap up a smaller company or three. But the one other thing Read spoke to was this: No generics giants. "It would be unlikely to create sufficient value," Read said (as quoted by Bloomberg). "It may, depending on the premium. But it would be unlikely."

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