Sanofi's rumored buyout plans inspire guessing game

The scuttlebutt from Bloomberg late last week about Sanofi-Aventis' interest in acquiring an unidentified drug developer in the pricey neighborhood of $20 billion has triggered a fevered new game of name-the-target.

For its part, the Wall Street Journal's Michael Corkery ran a slate of five potential developers that fit the general profile: Genzyme ($13 billion market cap); Biogen Idec ($13 billion); Celgene ($23 billion); Gilead Sciences and Amgen. With a market cap of $50 billion, though, Amgen would seem to be a far larger company than Sanofi would want to swallow right now.

For its part, Reuters helped stir the pot of market rumors with its own sources discussing one or two deals worth around $15 billion each. That helped spur shares of Biogen, Genzyme and Allergan, another hotly rumored target. Of course, in the biopharma business, M&A deals are always on the table in one fashion or another.

"In big pharma, everybody is looking at everything and they all have big departments looking at possible acquisitions," Raymond James analyst Thierry Verrecchia told Reuters.

TheStreet's Adam Feuerstein, meanwhile, doesn't think any of the big biotech companies are on Sanofi's list of potential takeover targets. He likes Allergan as the company most likely to help Sanofi diversify. 

"I think this is all hogwash," counters Matthew Herper at Forbes. "I don't know what (Sanofi CEO Chris) Viehbacher is planning, but I've interviewed him about mergers several times since he took over in 2008, and a deal of the size and scope we're speculating is completely within the realm of what he's previously discussed. And a biotech certainly could make sense for Sanofi.

- here's the story from Reuters
- and here's the report from the Wall Street Journal
 read the report from TheStreet

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