Pfizer: Diversified Dreams, Dubious Decisions

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In a recent interview, Pfizer's (NYSE: PFE  ) CEO Jeffrey Kindler said he wants to make his company more like Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) and Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT  ) , which aren't dependent on one product for success.

Great idea, Jeff! Becoming less dependent on any one product is a wonderful notion -- especially for a company that's about to see $12.4 billion worth of Lipitor sales vanish in a few years. Even in areas beyond health care, conglomerates like General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) and Tyco International (NYSE: TYC  ) have benefited from diversity.

But Kindler seems to have missed the point about how to become diversified. You don't do it with one huge, overpriced acquisition, as Pfizer tried to do by buying Wyeth (NYSE: WYE  ) . Such large-scale integration could easily become a nightmare. Instead, you do it through small, easily digested purchases. Let's look at some recent moves from both J&J and Abbott:




Johnson & Johnson

Omrix Biopharmaceuticals

$433 million



$1.2 billion


Human Performance Institute

Not disclosed


Advanced Medical Optics

$2.9 billion


Ibis Biosciences

$215 million


Nova Science

$13 million

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

See anything approaching Wyeth's $68 billion price tag? Not even close. The largest acquisition listed in Capital IQ's database for Johnson & Johnson is, ironically, its $16.6 billion acquisition of Pfizer's consumer health-care division in 2006. For Abbott, it was the $7 billion acquisition of BASF's pharmaceutical business back in 2001.

Pfizer hasn't done a very good job of integrating large acquisitions in the past, and investors should be especially wary of a repeat performance. Instead, investors would probably be better off looking at Sanofi-Aventis or GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK  ) . Both of these businesses seem to understand that pharmaceutical companies need to be value investors, too.

Value this Foolishness:

Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline are Income Investor recommendations, and Pfizer is a former recommendation of the newsletter. Tyco and Pfizer are Inside Value picks. 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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  • Report this Comment On December 18, 2009, at 4:20 PM, Fool wrote:

    Mr. Kindler has only Richard Steele and Hank McKinnell to thank for breaking up the closest thing to J&J there ever was.....Warner Lambert !

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