Bristol CEO touts successful biopharma blitz after big hep C play

Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) mounted an enviable makeover from a diversified company to a biopharma force over the past several years, with the famed "String of Pearls" strategy advanced to buy biotechs that brought BMS new drugs and science. Bristol-Myers CEO Lamberto Andreotti told folks in San Francisco on Tuesday that his company is sticking to the dealmaking model to fuel further growth, The Associated Press reported.

Biotech dealmakers and analysts have cheered the buyout strategy. Bristol-Myers has been one of the most active acquirers of biotechs around and doubled down this week with plans to scoop up hepatitis C drug developer Inhibitex ($INHX) for $2.5 billion. While gobbling up biotechs including Medarex (developer of Yervoy) and Adnexus Therapeutics over the past 5 years, Bristol-Myers' stock has outperformed those of companies that have stayed diversified with nonbiopharma businesses such as Merck ($MRK) and Pfizer ($PFE).

"Diversification can take many forms. We have not felt the need to diversify into OTC or generics or diagnostics," Andreotti said during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, as quoted by the AP. He also noted: "Business development remains our top priority."

With the stellar results of Bristol's strategy, there are plenty of pharma groups that would like to rip a page out of its playbook. Teva Pharmaceutical, of course, made perhaps the most aggressive move to copy the playbook, poaching Bristol's chief dealmaker Jeremy Levin, who was named the Israel-based group's new chief executive. And Sanofi ($SNY) CEO Chris Viehbacher told Bloomberg this week about his own plans to string together a series of buyouts this year to the tune of $2.6 billion to boost growth (yet he's open to looking outside biopharma to areas such as animal health).

With 2012 forecast to be a big year of deals as big biotechs and pharmas patch up their pipelines, expect to hear about more CEOs sporting their own "String of Pearls" strategies.

- here's the AP story