Bristol-Myers' rumored activists 'haven't made a decision' on the company yet: Starboard CEO

Bristol-Myers Squibb
Starboard Value CEO Jeff Smith says his company is “certainly interested in the story at Bristol-Myers." (Bristol-Myers Squibb)

Activist hedge fund Starboard Value is “certainly interested in the story at Bristol-Myers,” according to its leader. But that doesn’t mean it’s getting involved.

As Starboard’s CEO, Jeff Smith, told CNBC on Tuesday, Bristol-Myers Squibb “might fit” the profile of a company on which Starboard thinks it can have a positive impact. But “it might not fit that profile. We haven’t made that decision,” he said.

RELATED: Does Bristol-Myers Squibb’s new activist investor want to stall its Celgene buyout?

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The comments come after a Monday Bloomberg report that the proxy brawler had already picked up a stake in BMS. In response, analysts surmised that Starboard may be looking to thwart the New Jersey drugmaker’s $74 billion deal agreement for Celgene, perhaps by getting another pharma giant to buy Bristol.

Still, they expressed doubts around that idea—in part because the list of pharma players who could actually swallow BMS is short, not to mention unwilling.

AbbVie, Pfizer and Novartis could potentially pull it off, “but all these would require a lot of synergies to be accretive,” Bloomberg Intelligence’s Sam Fazeli told the news service, with Credit Suisse’s Vamil Divan adding in a note to clients that, “We would be surprised if activists are successful in pushing for a larger change.”

RELATED: Bristol-Myers scores first big deal of 2019 with $74B buyout of oncology bigwig Celgene

As CNBC’s David Faber noted, Starboard also currently has its hands full meddling in other companies, such as pizza chain Papa John’s.

Starboard has “so many different things going on, to take a significant stake where they would actually argue against a deal—who knows,” he said Monday. He also pointed to last year’s deal pact between United Technologies Corporation and Rockwell Collins, reminding viewers of then-rumors that Starboard could pick up a stake and argue against that deal. “Nothing ever came of it,” he said.

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