Monday, March 16, 2009

Pharmaceutical Industry Consolidation-And the Winner is Pfizer, Merck or Roche????

And the Winner is Pfizer, Merck or Roche????

We promised our view on the potential results of the 3 "super-mega-global-mergers" that have taken place in the last 60 days and we don't wish to disappoint. As we don't want to keep you in suspense, we think that Roche is getting the most “bang for the buck”, BUT it is highly dependent on the non-integration of Genentech.

Let's start with the contenders-first Pfizer-Wyeth. No surprise here, we think PFE vastly overpaid to get a potpourri of businesses with a dog's breakfast of vaccines, biotechs, consumers and some underwhelming pipeline potential. It seems to us that the major drive here is “synergy”, that is reducing workforce size by nearly 20,000 while plugging some of the $11-13 billion hole that Lipitor going off patent in 2011 creates. The stock market has not exactly been “irrationally exuberant” about Pfizer's 10 year $258 billion spending spree for Warner Lambert, Pharmacia and now Wyeth and has inversely rewarded share holders with a nearly 70% reduction in market capitalization from the day of the Warner Lambert deal close (Pfizer's market cap about $300 billion) to this week's $95 billion. Need we say more?

Merck strikes as a version of more of the same. Paying a 30%+ premium (about $41 billion) to combine 2 feeble pipelines and some redundancy (maybe another 20,000 people reduced), "diverse" and/or non-intersecting cultures doesn't strike us as “happy days are here again”. In fact while Pfizer-Wyeth pretends to be a “diversification” play as opposed to a "consolidation", Merck-ScheringPlough doesn't even try to excuse itself with such rhetoric. There is Dick Clark's (Merck's CEO) trying to convince us that Schering Plough is somewhat of an international powerhouse (try telling that to executives of any of Europe's Big 3 pharmaceutical houses), and that Remicade will drive sales of several billion more-can you spell J&J? The reverse acquisition route seems spurious at best-we're no lawyers but can't imagine the transparency of this shenanigan and how it may play with the legal eagles of J&J in New Brunswick. Can we forget about potential in fighting between Fred Hassan (Schering's CEO) and the aforementioned Mr. Clark?

So, back to Roche-Genentech. Sure $95 a share is rich and many a scientist in South San Francisco is going to feel more like a Microsoft Millionaire from the 1980's and therein may lie Roche's opportunity and challenge. Genentech's pipeline is deep and rich with well over two dozen promising candidates and more to come. Much of this has been attributed and rightly so to a combination of brilliant scientists and a laissez faire culture with heralded beer blasts, parties and freedom to explore favorite projects, some of which have become major drugs. The trick is whether Roche's CEO, Franz Humer and his merry band from Basel can convince Art Levinson and Genentech's San Francisco based minions that it's business as usual and that things can only get better from here. We're going to guess that while this is a classic consolidation play, the boys of Basel will do it right.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Please contact us at We look forward to hearing from you.

Contributed by Larry Rothman