Elan ($ELN)
Market cap: $6.53 billion

The scoop: All the news from Elan this year has been bad--and that may be the best reason to think that a buyout could be in the works. All its posturing over the prospects of a rich royalty stream from the Alzheimer's drug bapineuzumab--licensed out to J&J ($JNJ) and Pfizer ($PFE)--went up in smoke months ago when the Phase III program proved a bust. Its management team under CEO Kelly Martin has been ridiculed for years for missteps.

So why would anyone want to buy the company? Tysabri and (maybe) a mid-stage program in development for bipolar disease. In case anyone thought it might be problematic to buy a company with a poor record in R&D, Elan set out to spin off its high-risk assets, leaving a company with solid, bolt-on style profits. And the numbers are rising.

Would Elan fight an offer? Perish the thought.

"There are no obstructions that we have put in place or that we seek to put in place," Martin told reporters a few months back.

The likely bidder here has always been Biogen Idec ($BIIB), the gung-ho big biotech that has been coming on strong under CEO George Scangos. BG-12 looks like a solid contender for a chunk of the MS market. And its partnership on Tysabri makes it the one company to see the most immediate value for a tie-up.

Analysts, though, always like to play both sides of the chess board when it comes to buyout speculation. If BG-12 makes it to the market--which is highly likely--then some of the shine could rub off the Tysabri crown, making Elan a much weaker and cheaper company.

For more:
Elan stokes buyout buzz with plan for $130M R&D spinout
Elan faces uncertain future after Alzheimer's drug crash
Analysts: Ailing Elan casts buyout bait for Biogen Idec