Actelion ($ATLN) (Swiss)
Market cap: CHF $6 billion
The scoop: Actelion underscores just how desirable a single-product company with a future can be. Back in April the Swiss biotech reported that its pivotal study for macitentan--a pulmonary arterial hypertension drug slated to succeed its blockbuster Tracleer--proved positive. Significantly, the drug delivered solid efficacy data without the kind of liver toxicity issues that have hampered Tracleer.
If Actelion continues to look good for a regulatory approval, analysts see the drug moving on to replace Tracleer once that drug's 2015 patent cliff arrives. And long-term prospects are exactly what some Big Pharma outfits are looking for.
The benefits of a buyout are apparent. A buyer could shave away costs and absorb the new product easily. Of course, this little game has been so obvious that a long list of analysts have been playing the "what if" game. Two years ago Bloomberg sat down with various buyout scenarios and figured that the average price the company could fetch fell just short of $10 billion.
At the time, Amgen ($AMGN) was on the list of likely bidders, though one of its big investors quickly poured cold water over that suggestion. Fund manager Derek Taner didn't like the risks involved and didn't see why R&D chief Roger Perlmutter would think Actelion would fit into the company's expansion strategy. Now Perlmutter is gone and much of the risk has evaporated.
The buzz back in 2010, though, was being fed by Actelion's decision to consider its strategic options, stirring up rumors that Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), Roche ($RHHBY) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) could be just as interested as Amgen in the biotech.
Bayer, though, could help spoil any planned takeover party. The pharma giant just reported upbeat Phase III results for its PAH contender riociguat, setting up a potential market fight with Actelion and Gilead's ($GILD) Letairis in 2014. United Therapeutics ($UTHR), though, was recently batted back by the FDA when it tried to gain an approval for an oral version of treprostinil.