One more time: We're not buying Valeant, Allergan CEO insists

Allergan CEO Brent Saunders
Allergan CEO Brent Saunders says he's looking for buys that can provide innovation and pipeline prospects.

Allergan CEO Brent Saunders has said it before, and he’ll say it again: He’s not interested in buying Valeant. He might "take five minutes" to think about a Bristol-Myers acquisition, though.

When scouting targets, Allergan likes “things with pipeline and innovation,” he told Bloomberg Wednesday. And those are assets that Saunders is “not aware” Valeant has.

Valeant, of course, made its name on rampant M&A under former skipper J. Michael Pearson—not R&D.

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It’s not the first time Saunders has shot down the possibility of picking up the embattled drugmaker. “We look to buy young products that we think we can put into our hands and do better with and really grow, or we buy R&D assets. And best I can tell, Valeant just doesn’t fit that bill,” he told CNBC last September.

Why do questions about a Valeant-Allergan tie up persist? For one, the two drugmakers have quite a bit of overlap when it comes to their businesses; Valeant plays in eye care, skin care, gastrointestinal remedies and women’s health, all of which fall under Allergan’s list of core therapeutic areas.

Then there’s Saunders’ history of pulling the trigger on large deals. As Bausch & Lomb CEO, he negotiated the sale of that company to Valeant, and soon after, at the helm of Forest Labs, he engineered its merger with Actavis. Then, as Actavis chief, he bought Allergan in a “transformational” deal that took Actavis from generic drugmaker to “growth pharma.” Finally, he sold Allergan’s generics unit to Teva Pharmaceutical in a $40.5 billion transaction and helped orchestrate a record-breaking $160 billion Pfizer merger that the U.S. Treasury later quashed.

And of course, there’s the dramatic irony of a potential Allergan-buys-Valeant scenario, considering the months-long hostile pursuit Valeant mounted for Allergan back in 2014.

Saunders, though, also told the news service that he doesn’t “want to buy a turnaround situation,” which would categorically exclude Allergan’s one-time suitor. Losing the Allergan quest was the beginning of a huge decline for Valeant, which has since run up against political pricing pushback, fraud charges, debt-default worries, and enough other issues to have it looking to sell of pieces of its business for cash.

One potential target he wouldn’t ignore out of hand, though? Bristol-Myers Squibb, whose recent immuno-oncology setbacks have spurred plenty of takeover chatter.

“I think everybody is looking at Bristol,” he said. It would be a “very, very high hurdle” for a company like Allergan pull off a BMS buy, but for any chief exec, “you’re going to at least take five minutes to think about it.”

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