The now-declining valuations available to earlier stage biotech concerns — should the same seek to tap the public markets (or even, increasingly, seek private equity backing) — put the “strategic” industry multinationals with immaculate balance sheets (and great cash flow), in an enviable position.
Mr. Frazier is clearly right that his careful capital management over the years has put Kenilworth in the driver’s seat now, should it decide it wants to snap up a few of these “add on” acquisition candidates in 2016.
I might argue that this puts him (and Merck) in a better near term strategic position than Ian Read, over at Pfizer — as Mr. Read is likely to be so tied up trying to clear the manifold regulatory authorities, on his single mega “re-domicile” deal, that Merck might just be able to start stealing franchises, here, one by one. Mr. Frazier’s strategy for 2016 certainly presents a much smaller execution risk than Mr. Read’s, in my view.
We shall see. But here is a bit, from Reuters, at Davos, Switzerland, last week:
. . . .U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co is eager to do deals to bring in promising experimental medicines and believes a recent correction in biotechnology stocks should throw up new opportunities.
“Prices have come back somewhat. That is a positive thing,” Chief Executive Kenneth Frazier told Reuters in Davos on Friday.
“In particular, some of the early-stage companies are struggling to get the next round of financing as people start to be a little less willing to pay for the promise of growth, so that gives us opportunities. . . .”
“At our size, I would say a $10 billion or $20 billion deal would qualify as a bolt-on,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum annual meeting. . . .
We will keep you posted. Meanwhile, here in Chicago, we feel the pain of our East Coast shovel crews — but for once, we are kicking our heels up, and sipping our coffee and OJ — free from that chore. We do feel for you Mike — truly. Smile.