Pfizer-AstraZeneca sequel could hit theaters next week

Months removed from an intercontinental M&A dance that polarized investors and paralyzed executives, Pfizer ($PFE) and AstraZeneca ($AZN) will soon be free to start talking about a deal once more, provided the latter company is interested.

Earlier this year, AstraZeneca repeatedly refused Pfizer's offering of roughly $117 billion to buy it outright, waiting out the clock imposed by the U.K.'s takeover code and triggering a forced quiet period. However, come Monday, AstraZeneca will be able to legally re-engage its former suitor, and, as Reuters notes, the company's shares have risen more than 7% this week on speculation that it will do just that.

But AstraZeneca's recent activity--buying Almirall for $2.1 billion and further talking up its much-hyped oncology pipeline--doesn't suggest the company is looking to be acquired any time soon, and analysts say any resumption of buyout talk is likely to come in November, when Pfizer will be free to make another public bid on its former target.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot

That said, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot might be pressured into picking up the phone by shareholders upset he didn't take Pfizer's billions when they were last on the table. Part of his company's defense strategy was promising an independent future of sky-high sales and pipeline success, and any substantial missteps could trigger an investor revolt.

But Soriot isn't panicking. AstraZeneca's next investor day is scheduled for Nov. 18, Reuters points, not coincidentally preceding Pfizer's next chance to make an offer and demonstrating that the company believes it can make another convincing case for going it alone.

In the meantime, the company is hitting the gas on R&D, disclosing last month plans to launch a Phase III trial testing its lead immunotherapy's effects on head and neck cancer this year, expanding upon an ongoing pivotal study pitting the drug against non-small cell lung cancer. AstraZeneca expects its candidate, dubbed MEDI-4736, to bring in $6.5 billion at its peak, and the company is working through combo studies pairing it with treatments from Incyte ($INCY), Advaxis ($ADXS) and Kyowa Hakko Kirin.

- read the Reuters story