Analysts buzz over new Amgen CEO's plans for $20B cache

In the 18 months ahead of his recent departure from the top R&D post at Amgen ($AMGN), Roger Perlmutter helped execute at least three new deals: Committing up to a billion dollars to buy BioVex and bring in the cancer cell-killing virus it engineered; snagging Micromet in a $1.2 billion buyout and landing KAI Pharma and its CKD therapy for $315 million a few weeks ago. Those programs were all added to an R&D effort that was heavily weighted to late-stage work, especially after a restructuring effort last fall and an out-licensing pact with AstraZeneca. And its PCSK9 program on LDL has generated significant buzz. 

But some analysts say that the new CEO at Amgen--Bob Bradway (photo)--will need to pull off more licensing and buyout deals if he wants to earn a good reputation for an up-an-coming pipeline effort. Reuters canvased a number of analysts who follow Amgen. And their slate of potential takeovers include Ariad, which would add late-stage cancer drugs to the effort, as well as UCB and Actelion, the Swiss developer which is girding itself for a pivotal readout on its crucial macitentan program. 

"They are likely to announce a more focused, strategic R&D strategy which includes more in-licensing, acquisitions and focusing on their core strength," RBC Capital Markets analyst Michael Yee tells Reuters. "I don't see the company undergoing a major restructuring and divesting drugs."

Others, though, would be happy to see Amgen use its $20 billion cash cache to hand out bigger dividends to shareholders. Bradway takes over on May 23rd. And evidently the one thing he can't afford to do is nothing. With investors restive and R&D gobbling up about 20% of revenue, analysts want to see some decisive actions to reassure them that the company knows where it's headed and how to get there.

Whatever that is.

- here's the feature from Reuters

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