It's nice to have cash. It allows you to buy things like unusually cheap stocks or companies of which you already own 56%. Unfortunately for Roche, not having cash seems to be making it hard to close its $45 billion deal for Genentech (NYSE:DNA). The availability of credit just isn't what it used to be.

Not everyone is having problems closing their deals, though. Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) didn't need much of a loan to close its $6.5 billion purchase of ImClone Systems. It had $6.1 billion in cash and short-term investments at the end last quarter, so it needed only a relatively small loan of $2 billion to $3 billion to get the job done.

Cash is king and it's allowing companies to swoop in and get some good deals.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) went on a bit of a spending spree over the last couple of weeks. On Monday it bought Mentor for a little over $1 billon and picked up much smaller Omrix Biopharmaceuticals last week. Even with those purchase, the company still has plenty of cash left.

Check out these players in the pharmaceutical field.


Cash and short-term investments (billions)

Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)


Wyeth (NYSE:WYE)


Johnson & Johnson


GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK)


Novartis (NYSE:NVS)


Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. As of the quarter ending September 2008.

That's a lot of cash that could be deployed. To put it in perspective, the companies above could pay double the current market caps for Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Elan, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Genzyme, Seattle Genetics, and PDL Biopharma, and still have plenty left over as a cushion.

In Warren Buffett-like fashion, pharmaceutical companies have been hoarding cash -- patiently waiting for good prices. And it looks like that time has arrived. There are a lot of drug developers that have been knocked down even though the prospects of their pipelines haven't changed very much.

Enjoy your holiday shopping, pharma.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.