Eli Lilly & Co. (Indianapolis) CEO John Lechleiter earlier this week told the Financial Times that he is not interested in becoming part of the recent mega-merger trend (see Pfizer+Wyeth, Merck+Schering-Plough and Roche+Genentech). Rumors and speculation have had some thinking Lilly+Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) would be the next big thing, but Lechleiter specifically ended rumors of that combination and remained critical of Big Pharma’s recent big deals.
As he told the Financial Times, “I think we are seeing deals that are really driven more by weakness than what I would describe as strong strategic combinations … That will improve short-term problems but fail to answer the long-term question of research productivity.” He also said that mega-mergers were “very disruptive to research and development.”
His interest lies in smaller acquisitions of up to $15 billion. He recently told the Wall Street Journal that he “got hungry again about three weeks after ImClone got closed.” Lilly purchased ImClone in November 2008 for about $6.5 billion, successfully outbidding BMS’s two unsolicited offers that ImClone had rejected last fall.
Though Lilly is out of the mega-merger picture, there is talk around the web that BMS could be involved in a takeover deal. As PharmTech Senior Editor Patricia Van Arnum wrote in a Feb. 27, 2009 blog post, BMS could be eyeing merger plans with companies it has previous collaboration relationships with, like sanofi-aventis and AstraZeneca. Similar reports from analysts cropped up following the industry’s huge consolidation announcements earlier this year.
However, in early March, sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher dispelled rumors of a mega-merger with BMS, telling CNBC that the two companies have “a fabulous partnership and that’s sufficient for us right now.” And AstraZeneca CEO David Brennan told Reuters last week that his company would also not jump on the mega-merger bandwagon, saying, “I don’t believe we need to engage in a large transaction.” Unfortunately for BMS, none of its rumored partners seem to be interested in pursuing a deal at this time. At least not publicly.