Will Biopharma Acquisitions Never Cease?
In both the size and quantity of proposed deals, the past 24 months have been busier than ever for biopharma dealmakers. From industry giants like Genentech and Biogen Idec (Nasdaq: BIIB) to tiny players such as Mirus Bio, nearly every such drugmaker has generated at least rumors of a takeover.
These drugmakers’ cash has to go somewhere, either through acquisitions, share buybacks, dividend payments, or paying down debt. Some of these options don’t make very much sense right now; with interest rates at historical lows, for example, now’s not the time for big pharma to pare down their debt levels. In addition, some drugmakers park a good portion of their cash outside the U.S. for tax reasons, making foreign biopharma acquisitions more attractive.
Given their complex molecular nature and manufacturing processes, many biologically derived drugs and vaccines have innate natural protections against generic competition. In many cases, it can be nearly impossible to make a generic copy of a biopharmaceutical drug, even after its patents have run out.
There are plenty of smaller variables at work, too:
All in all, the the environment for biopharma deals has never been stronger.
What does Big Pharma want?
Here’s a chart of some of the biggest biopharma acquisitions or proposed deals in the past 24 months:
*Compared to the day before the offer was made.
In addition to heated acquitision activity, drugmakers have forged a slew of record-breaking partnership deals for biopharmaceutical assets. For example, in 2006 GlaxoSmithKline struck a deal with Genmab, worth as much as $2.1 billion, for one of the latter company’s late-stage monoclonal antibody drug candidates.
Many of these deals involved drug developers working with technologies that competitors have previously validated, but in recent months, large-cap pharma has even started to bite on new unproven technologies like Cell Genesys‘ GVAX cancer vaccine. However, these deals have generally drawn smaller amounts of up-front cash (and some bad outcomes, too).
What tempting targets remain?
Here’s a partial list of some of the juiciest biopharma assets potentially still up for grabs:
Other drugmakers also have interesting biopharmaceutical assets, like Biogen Idec, Elan (NYSE: ELN), and Genzyme. But for a variety of reasons, including their large size or the nature of their existing partnership agreements, they’d be more difficult for a potential buyer to acquire.
A year from now, I’ll be very surprised if every drugmaker on the above list remains independent. There are only so many mature biopharma assets to go around, and as the past months have shown us, big pharma isn’t afraid to snap them up.