Valeant Vultures

Spec pharma is built to be acquired -- hostilely or otherwise.

Yesterday Valeant Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: VRX  ) said it wants to buy Cephalon (Nasdaq: CEPH  ) for $73 per share. Cephalon's management doesn't seem all that interested in accepting a full buyout nor selling its non-oncology-related assets for $2.8 billion, which Valeant also offered to purchase.

Or at least, Cephalon isn't interested in rushing into anything. It's undertaking its own strategy of bulking up. Since the beginning of the year, it's announced acquisitions of Gemin X Pharmaceuticals and ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals, and an option to purchase a drug from Alba Therapeutics. The hunter has become the hunted, as it were.

Cephalon's share skyrocketed on the news. In fact, they're trading a couple of bucks above the $73 offer. Investors are either expecting Valeant to raise its offer or for another company to start a bidding war. Both are possible, but neither seems extremely likely at this point.

Valeant's CEO Michael Pearson made it very clear that he wouldn't overpay. "While we are willing to consider a higher price if due diligence supports this, we will remain very disciplined on price," he said on the conference call. Of course, sanofi-aventis (NYSE: SNY  ) said similar things before finally raising its offer for Genzyme (Nasdaq: GENZ  ) .

As to a white knight coming over the top, Valeant's offer is 29% higher than Cephalon has traded over the last 30 days. Someone will need to see a lot of value in the company.

Big pharma has expressed interest in purchasing spec pharma -- Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) bought King Pharmaceuticals, for instance -- but Cephalon has some major patent expiration issues. I'm not sure any large pharmaceutical company is interested in adding to their own patent cliff.

While mergers and acquisitions aren't all that surprising in the spec pharma space, I'm a little surprised that Valeant's shares are up 10% today. Since the company hasn't actually bought anything, is knowing that you've got a management team looking for good deals really mean the company is worth 10% more?

Keep up with the Valeant and Cephalon drama -- I'm sure it's far from over -- by clicking here to add the companies to your watchlist.

Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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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