Merger-watch fans, listen up. The Financial Times is reporting some tantalizing details about the bidding for Biogen Idec, the biotech based in Cambridge, MA, that sent stock analysts into an uproar when it put itself up for sale a few weeks ago. Unnamed sources told the London newspaper that the sequence of events leading to that surprise announcement actually began with Pfizer offering $80 per share for the company. Investor Carl Icahn (photo) then made a counter-offer, and the company retained financial advisors to conduct an orderly sale. Even now, Pfizer remains one of the front-runners for Biogen, the sources said, along with Merck and Johnson & Johnson.
Some other buyers have already dropped out of the race, spooked by the "nosebleed prices" expected. Icahn offered $23 billion, so the winning bid is likely to be higher. Are Biogen's assets worth that much? They include the multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri, in partnership with Elan; the lymphoma and arthritis remedy Rituxan, in collaboration with Genentech; and the MS drug Avonex, which is wholly owns. It also has a pipeline of drugs in development, including two promising MS products.
Meanwhile, headhunters are getting calls from Biogen types expecting a sale to lead to the layoff ax. The non-executive staff is anxious, recruiters said, even though the company continues to hire new workers.
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