On Wednesday, major European newspapers reported that biopharma company Cephalon
Last year, Cephalon bought out European oncology company Zeneus Holdings for $360 million in cash. Financially, it was an OK deal -- Zeneus was expected to add $100 million in sales to the company in 2006 -- but its best part was the 170-person sales and marketing team that Cephalon received in the transaction. If Cephalon can get any of its earlier-stage drugs approved, then its acquisition of the large Zeneus sales team will give it the option of going it alone instead of partnering its drugs in Europe. That could mean more revenue and higher margins for the company.
Because of Zeneus' oncology focus, I'm betting on Cephalon acquiring an oncology-related company. Such a move would probably give the company the most synergies and make merging the acquired company that much easier.
Cephalon has been in an acquisitive mood for the past year and a half, acquiring several drugs or the marketing rights to them, and outright buying two companies, including Zeneus. The company's lack of an earlier-stage clinical pipeline has been driving all of this activity. Not counting the three drugs awaiting regulatory decisions, Cephalon currently has only two drugs going through clinical trials. If Cephalon can't develop its own pipeline, it makes sense for the company to cultivate future revenue drivers through acquisitions.
Speaking of which, the Food and Drug Administration issued Cephalon an approvable letter for its drug to treat cancer pain, Fentora, last Friday. That should help replace some of sales Cephalon will use when its Actiq drug goes generic in the fourth quarter of this year.
Cephalon's stock climbed by more than 10% after the announcement. But the approvable letter wasn't what sent the stock flying -- it was expected. Instead, shares rose on the announcement that the company expects to get a class 1 review for Fentora when it submits its response to the approvable letter. That means the FDA will issue another decision on Fentora within 60 days of the company's response to the letter, rather than the six months that a class 2 review can take. If the company gets its response to the FDA by the end of July, as it said it will, it's conceivable that Fentora could go on sale as early as September.
For a midsized biopharma company, Cephalon sure does produce a lot of news. No matter what you think of the company's prospects, you definitely can't call Cephalon's management lazy.
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