Pfizer Inc.’s deal aspirations are probably bigger than Hospira Inc.
Buying the injectable drugmaker doesn’t give Pfizer the innovative products and lower tax rate that the $208 billion pharmaceutical giant was seeking in its failed bid for AstraZeneca Plc last year. Pfizer’s $17 billion bill for Hospira is just a fraction of the almost $120 billion it was willing to pay for AstraZeneca, so the New York-based company has plenty of capacity to go after more targets. Chief Executive Officer Ian Read said Pfizer continues to look at opportunities.
A deal for Actavis Plc, which is wrapping up its $66 billion purchase of Botox-maker Allergan Inc., could fulfill Pfizer’s remaining needs, according to Kevin Kedra, a Rye, New York-based analyst at Gabelli & Co. The company could also look to further bolster its oncology and vaccine offerings, said John Boris of SunTrust Banks Inc. Big drugmakers such as GlaxoSmithKline Plc, AbbVie Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. have also been named by analysts as potential Pfizer targets.
“You don’t go from potentially paying $120 billion for a major deal to something that’s basically an hors d’oeuvre,” Boris of SunTrust said in a phone interview. “M&A will continue to be dominant.”
Pfizer had $33 billion in cash at the end of September, the most recent date for which information is available. It’s using some of that to cover a portion of the cost for the Hospira deal and issuing new debt to pay for the rest. That will still leave the company with plenty of resources for other acquisitions.
“I’m not going to sneeze at a $17 billion deal -- it’s a fairly significant move,” David Heupel, a Minneapolis-based fund manager at Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, which oversees about $90 billion, said in a phone interview. “But they certainly, particularly when you think about ex-U.S. cash, have plenty of money that they could deploy. This doesn’t necessarily close the door on any acquisition.”
The Hospira deal will add scale and growth to Pfizer’s established products business, putting the company in a better position to eventually spin it off as it has discussed doing. What Hospira doesn’t offer is a pipeline of innovative products that could replace Pfizer’s own blockbusters that are losing patent protections and help reverse four years of revenue declines.
That could drive Pfizer to a deal with Actavis, Kedra of Gabelli said. Actavis is in the process of buying Allergan to add fast-growing drugs including the anti-wrinkle treatment Botox and Restasis eye-drops. Once it completes the deal, the Dublin-based company may also be big enough forPfizer to overcome the U.S. Treasury’s stricter rules on inversions and strike a deal to lower its tax rate, Kedra said.
Buying Hospira “checks off some of the boxes they would have gotten from AstraZeneca but certainly not all of them,” Kedra said in a phone interview. With an Actavis takeover, “you would certainly pick up some innovative growth assets, especially through the Allergan portfolio. That would help check off a lot of the boxes that still seem to be out there.”
Mylan is also a possibility as the companies already have a relationship on several projects including EpiPen, though Pfizer would have to work out the tax implications of a takeover, said Boris of SunTrust. Mylan is seeking to lower its tax bill by buying Abbott Laboratories’ generic drugs business in developed markets and moving its legal address to the Netherlands.
The Hospira acquisition may tip Pfizer’s hand on where it’s looking for its next deal, Thrivent’s Heupel said.
“There are plenty of assets out there that they could buy that would provide some revenue and feasible growth to the existing infrastructure the company has -- I think that’s part of what this tells us,” he said. “You could run the gamut in the generic specialty space. I think anything would be feasibly viewed as on the table.”