Amgen hunts for deals of all sizes to combat forthcoming sales decline

amgen
Amgen expects revenues to land between $21.8 billion and $22.9 billion for 2019. (Amgen)

A couple of Big Pharma players have come out against megamergers in recent weeks. But Amgen isn’t one of them.

On Tuesday’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call, CEO Bob Bradway said his company continues to “look across the waterfront of smaller and larger deals.”

“Obviously, there are more smaller ones than larger ones, so we tend to spend more of our time looking at those," he said. But he added that the company believes it has the flexibility, the balance sheet and the management resources to look at deals of all sizes, and “with stocks down considerably from where they were a year ago, I would expect that we would continue to look,” he said.

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Of course, that’s not the only reason Amgen’s looking around. With two biosimilar competitors now out to get Amgen mammoth Neulasta—and generics looming for blockbuster Sensipar—its 2019 guidance “calls for a ‘decline’ in revenue and EPS vs. consensus ‘flattish,’” Jefferies analyst Michael Yee wrote in a note to clients.

RELATED: Could Gilead, Amgen and AbbVie follow Bristol-Myers into megadeal territory?

Analysts have been positing for months that the California biotech could be on the hunt for a growth-booster, with Bernstein’s Ronny Gal suggesting last July that Alexion could make a good fit. The company is big enough to offset Amgen’s sales decline and “not crazy valued,” he wrote to clients at the time.

One thing’s for sure: If Amgen does go after a major buy, it won’t have to fight Pfizer or Roche in the process. Executives at both companies have recently declared their disinterest in inking a major deal, citing the disruption integrations can bring to other key activities such as pipeline development.  

And if it doesn’t? Amgen will need to look to its new launches to help it tread water as copycats bite into its big sellers. One of them, migraine-fighter Aimovig, is off to a hot start; in the fourth quarter, it raked in $95 million, doubling Wall Street’s $47 million estimate.

“Aimovig reached over 150,000 patients during 2018 and represents a strong launch trajectory,” commercial chief Murdo Gordon said on the call.

RELATED: For sale: Amgen chops 60% off Repatha's $14,520 retail price

Repatha surprised the Street, too, turning in sales of $159 million that beat estimates by $13 million. That performance followed Amgen’s decision to slash the PCSK9 drug’s list price by 60% to just $5,850 per year before rebates and discounts. 

“The experience with Repatha has been very good through the fourth quarter,” and “we’re optimistic that we’ll continue to make good inroads this year,” Gordon said.

Overall, the company recorded sales of $6.23 billion for the quarter, coming in $407 million ahead of consensus. Earnings per share also topped forecasts by 18 cents at $3.42. For this year, Amgen expects revenues to hit between $21.8 to $22.9 billion, with EPS checking in between $11.55 and $12.75.

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