Is This Drugmaker a Lavish Spender or a Bargain Hunter?

Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY  ) seems to see something in ZymoGenetics (Nasdaq: ZGEN  ) that most investors don't. Bristol-Myers is buying the beleaguered biotech for $9.75 per share -- a whopping 84% increase over yesterday's closing price.

I sure hope Bristol-Myers is right. At $735 million net of cash, ZymoGenetics doesn't come cheap with Bristol-Myers blowing through about 10% of the $7.5 billion it had in the bank at the end of the second quarter.

Technically, ZymoGenetics has a drug on the market, but it only sold $20.9 million worth of Recothrom in the first half of the year. The drug that helps stop bleeding during surgery has to compete against King Pharmaceuticals' (NYSE: KG  ) Thrombin-JMI and Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE: JNJ  ) Evithrom. Recothrom's market share is improving, but the drug isn't even covering costs to manufacture and sell the drug, let alone helping pay for research and development costs for ZymoGenetics' pipeline. Talk about needing to stop the bleeding.

But Bristol-Myers is basically buying ZymoGenetics for its pipeline. The companies are partners on pegylated-interferon lambda, a treatment for hepatitis C. The hope is that the drug produces fewer side effects and can unseat Roche's Pegasys and Merck's (NYSE: MRK  ) PegIntron, but it's not a guarantee. Human Genome Sciences (Nasdaq: HGSI  ) tried a similar strategy with Zalbin but was recently shot down by the Food and Drug Administration.

Who knows, maybe I'm overreacting here. Bristol-Myers seems to have made a good move acquiring partner Medarex to gain full control of their melanoma drug ipilimumab. And management was willing to walk away from ImClone Systems rather than get into a bidding war with Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY  ) . Maybe Bristol-Myers is right about ZymoGenetics' price here, too, despite the fact that yesterday investors weren't willing to pay that much.

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Johnson & Johnson is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Johnson & Johnson. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.

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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