Round two? Market rumors on a new Pfizer bid for AstraZeneca heat up

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot

The story about a potential new takeover offer for AstraZeneca ($AZN) by Pfizer ($PFE) will not die.

With a new bid technically possible come Tuesday, analysts have been keeping the pot boiling by buzzing about Pfizer's need to do something big in order to overcome the financial doldrums it finds itself in. Those bubbling rumors have helped stoke AstraZeneca's share price this week. And aside from taking out Actavis or possibly even GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca seems to remain the preferred megamerger/tax inversion deal that could have the impact that Pfizer needs.

The Telegraph helped keep the pot boiling, picking up a report from the Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri that there were "indications" of "discussions of a potential new bid" from Pfizer. That falls short of a scoop. AstraZeneca, as it always does in this situation, declined comment.

When last we left Pfizer, the U.S. pharma giant had bid £55 per share--$118 billion--while AstraZeneca's board had circled its wagons around £58.50. Whatever else Pascal Soriot has accomplished in his brief tenure as CEO of AstraZeneca, the company's deal spree and development efforts have positioned it in a relatively strong bargaining position.

In particular, AstraZeneca has been able to jump into the top group of immuno-oncology drug developers with a closely-watched program for MEDI-4736. Regardless of the risks and rivalries involved, AstraZeneca has produced enough positive results for its checkpoint program to make it a contender in one of the hottest fields in biopharma, earning comparisons with Roche, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck.

So it's to AstraZeneca's benefit that UBS helped burnish AstraZeneca's credentials today by saying that AstraZeneca's decision to move MED-4736 into a small, 48-patient study for colorectal cancer opened the door to a "potentially multi-blockbuster opportunity," according to a report from Reuters.

More talk about such blockbuster opportunity--whatever the reality--helps AstraZeneca's board hold out for the big premium, if Pfizer is indeed plotting round two for one of the most widely criticized takeover attempts in the industry's history.

- here's the story from The Telegraph
- here's the report from Reuters