What does Viehbacher mean by 'reasonable'?

When CEOs on either side of a proposed buyout start using the same words, does that mean a deal is imminent? Not according to Sanofi-Aventis chief Chris Viehbacher (photo), who could have been quoting Genzyme CEO Henri Termeer yesterday at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Healthcare Conference in London.

Viehbacher said he saw a "reasonable" chance of striking a deal with Genzyme. Shareholders are expecting a "reasonable" price, he said. Was it a coded message for Termeer, who last week asked for "a reasonable starting point" for negotiations?

Of course, the word "reasonable" can mean different things to different people; it's too bad neither man mentioned numbers. Viehbacher wouldn't specify just what the shareholders' expectations are, nor did Termeer say just what the right starting point might be. The only number that's public is that $69 per share price, which Sanofi's sticking to--at least for now--and Termeer dismisses completely. No wonder Viehbacher predicts the deal could take awhile.

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