Now That's How to Grow a Company!

Dear Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) and Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) ,

You really should take note of how Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT  ) is growing. As I see it, the path to health-care supremacy isn't through your large acquisitions of Wyeth and Schering-Plough (NYSE: SGP  ) , but through lots of small acquisitions.

Sure, Abbott's acquisition of privately held Visiogen for $400 million yesterday didn't get the same fanfare as your acquisitions that topped $40 billion, but if you do enough of those deals, it seems likely that you'll get more bang for your buck.

Visiogen's replacement lenses for cataract patients have been on the market in Europe since January and are currently under review by the Food and Drug Administration, so there's plenty of room for growth. The acquisition is a nice addition to Abbott's growing eye-care franchise after its acquisition of Advanced Medical Optics earlier this year, and diversifying should help it compete against eye-care powerhouses Allergan (NYSE: AGN  ) and Alcon (NYSE: ACL  ) .

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) is another example of a company that's grown into a gigantic force through relatively small acquisitions. For instance, it bought Centocor for $4.9 billion, well before Centocor's anti-inflammatory drug, Remicade, became a blockbuster. In case you lost track, Remicade alone brought in $3.7 billion in sales last year. Pfizer, you're not going to find that kind of growth left in Wyeth's competing product, Enbrel.

Yes, Wyeth and Schering have drugs in their pipelines that could come to fruition, but you're also paying for a lot of stale drugs that will lose patent protection in the not-too-distant future. Purchases of 100 Visiogen-sized companies might have been a better move for long-term growth, even if it won't have the same short-term effect on the revenue line.

Respectfully suggested,
Brian Orelli
Motley Fool Contributor

Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Johnson & Johnson is an Income Investor pick. Alcon is a Global Gains recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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