Sunday, April 5, 2009

Where’d Everybody Go?

I know that I’ve been a little distracted lately and been off the wire a bit, but, when I resurfaced I was surprised at how quiet everything had suddenly become in the life sciences sector, Big Pharma especially. I e-mailed Larry asking where everybody had gone (except for Mike Huckman, who’s out in LA chasing a story on Dendreon. Check it out at .). He replied with his characteristic wit and insight asking that wasn’t this supposed to be my job? Larry did have a point.

A short while ago, everyone was talking about Merck (NYSE: MRK) and Schering-Plough (NYSE: SGP), and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ); Roche (SWX Europe: ROG) and Genentech (NYSE: DNA); Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Wyeth (NYSE: WYE); and, Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) and Celera (NYSE: CRA). Now, nothing.

OK, the wise guys out there may say, ‘Isn’t this enough?’ (I won’t get into that maybe it was too much. I’ve flogged that poor horse too much already.) One day, we’re all merging and going to dominate the industry. The next, there’s not enough players around for a pickup game of stick ball. Something’s up.

The media aren’t really covering these deals or other possible outcomes presently. Maybe the other news stories are pushing Big Pharma into the back pages, or, off altogether. I have to admit last Sunday’s purported story about President Obama calling General Motor’s (NYSE: GM) CEO, Rick Wagoner, at home and firing him made for a heck of lot better copy than the purported value of Schering-Plough’s pipeline. The stock market’s recent rally has certainly been another distraction, probably, also throwing some deals economics into question. Finally, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s plans for toxic bank debt haven’t hurt neither has his rock star boss’ concert tour of Europe.

My point, the markets and the media are digesting a lot of new news. Much of which will change the rules that Big Pharma had been playing by until recently. First, share prices will rise. Those deals won’t be looking so good to shareholders. Next, government is getting more involved with American business management. Industries and their companies should be expecting their own phone calls from Washington if they get into trouble. Or, maybe executives’ pay will just seem too exorbitant when politicians are just trying to make more drugs more affordable to more people who can’t afford them. Finally, Big Pharma has nothing new to say. As Larry and I have blogged repeatedly, this is an industry that could be the next Big Auto.

So, where has everybody gone? I believe that they’ve gone to ground looking for cover. First quarter earnings are due out soon. Annual shareholders’ meetings will be taking place. I still don’t think that there will be much good news. You can only get away with saying that you’re doing better than General Motors for so long.

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Contributed by Guy de Lastin

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