Market cap: $1.68 billion
Soon after new AstraZeneca ($AZN) CEO Pascal Soriot hit the brakes on the pharma company's multibillion-dollar stock buyback program, the Daily Mail fanned rumors that he was looking at a possible bid for Amarin, which holds the rights to the newly approved Vascepa, an industrial-strength omega 3 fish-oil therapy that has been crawling to the market at a snail's pace.
Of course, once buyout fever hits a company, there's no end to the list of possible bidders. And many of the usual suspects--Pfizer ($PFE), Merck ($MRK), Abbott ($ABT)--have been linked to one not-so-usual suspect: Eli Lilly ($LLY).
Vascepa is intended to help out the cardiovascular crowd, a vast market that requires big-market sales ability that Amarin clearly doesn't have and can't simply recruit. The competitor in the field is GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), which markets Lovaza with about $1 billion in annual sales.
But some analysts--led by TheStreet's Adam Feuerstein--have been waiting quite some time to hear whether Vascepa will earn new chemical entity (NCE) status, which could prove key to guarding against near-term generic competition that would wipe out much of its value. As long as a cloud is hanging over its value, investors will continue to speculate endlessly about a possible takeover and the ultimate reward they could expect from a winning bid. But if Amarin fails to win NCE status and goes ahead with a weak solo launch, these rumors could melt away quickly under the heat of a sudden attitude adjustment.