Report: Novartis puts a $10B cap on acquisition targets, but steers clear of Onyx

Onyx CEO Tony Coles

Novartis ($NVS) Chairman Joerg Reinhardt tells Bloomberg that the pharma giant is ready to pull the trigger on new acquisitions for up to $10 billion--but Onyx ($ONXX) evidently is not on the short list of targets.

The business news service reported that after Novartis, Pfizer ($PFE) and AstraZeneca ($AZN) all expressed an interest in bagging Onyx after the biotech set out to start a bidding war in the wake of an Amgen ($AMGN) bid, Novartis has dropped out of the running. Quoting a source close to the discussions in a separate Bloomberg report, Novartis is said to have been leery of the steep $130-per-share offer Amgen reportedly has made.

Later on Tuesday Bloomberg followed up to report that Pfizer had dropped its due diligence effort, leaving only AstraZeneca as a possible rival bidder to Amgen.

Onyx chief executive Tony Coles told reporters a few days ago that there are several--unnamed--companies crowding the bargaining table. Whether that's accurate or just the usual blarney associated with negotiating a top sales price, though, is still being debated by analysts. Amgen is the only company to officially make an offer for Onyx, which today has a market value estimated at $10 billion-plus.

Onyx earned that valuation after successfully adding Kyprolis to its mix of cancer therapies, which include Nexavar and a slice of the royalties from Stivarga.

Novartis plans to start looking over its acquisition strategy in the next few days as it ponders its next move. The company has a big pipeline already, including a full slate of late-stage assets as well as an ambitious biosimilar development schedule at Sandoz. But Novartis is notoriously stingy with the details when it comes to any of its deals--even after they are announced.

"We will also start next week to look at our portfolio based on strategic perspectives going forward," Reinhardt told Bloomberg during an interview in Basel. Bolt-on deals are attractive, he added, and "I don't think a $10 billion acquisition is out of reach."

- here's the Bloomberg report on Novartis's deal strategy
- read the story on Onyx

Special Reports: Tony Coles - The 25 most influential people in biopharma today - 2013 | Onyx Pharmaceuticals - Buyout Buzz: The most frequently cited takeover targets in biotech | Kyprolis - Top 20 orphan drugs by 2018