The second half of 2006 has been a busy time for big pharmaceuticals. With sales stagnating for many of them, they've searched for acquisition candidates to spend their still-strong free cash flows on. In the past two months alone, there have been at least six acquisitions for a billion dollars or more.
Not to be left out, Johnson & Johnson
Conor is best known for its drug-eluting stent technology, which it claims will produce a more controlled and longer-lasting dosing of whichever drug is encapsulated in the porous holes of its stents than other eluting stent designs.
Conor has one marketed vascular drug-eluting stent product -- approved this year for sale in the European Union and Latin America -- which brought in $11 million in the third quarter.
Johnson & Johnson's purchase of Conor is really about getting access to a platform technology as much as it is about its products already in clinical trials. So the value of the deal to Johnson & Johnson shareholders will depend on the extent that the company uses Conor's technology in its future products and the competitive advantage of Conor's stents over drug-eluting stents now on the market, some of which come from JNJ's Cordis division, a pioneer in the field.
This acquisition isn't without risks, though. There is always a chance that new technologies or drugs will come along and eliminate the need for drug-eluting stents. Also, new safety data on drug-eluting stents published in medical journals this year has been mixed at best and resulted in doctors using fewer of the devices.
This deal makes sense because it brings innovative technology to Johnson & Johnson's already proven Cordis division. It's best known for its Cypher drug-eluting stent, which brought Cordis about $980 million in sales in the most recent quarter -- down nearly 2% year over year because of the new safety concerns.
If Conor's stent design can alleviate some of the perceived safety worries about stents, then sales from the Cordis division should spring back up, again making it drive revenue growth for Johnson & Johnson, as it did before this year. Even if sales of Conor's one marketed stent don't pick up quickly, that alone would probably make the deal worthwhile to Johnson & Johnson.
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