Pfizer Eyeing Deals of Any Size in Quest to Find New Blockbuster

Pfizer Inc. Chief Executive Officer Ian Read said he’s on the hunt for an acquisition to build up the company’s collection of innovative drugs, five months after agreeing to a $17 billion deal to bolster the unit that sells older products.

Pfizer’s been reviewing whether to split into two parts, with one housing potentially lucrative new drugs and another encompassing the slower-growing, established products. Its deal in February to buy injectable drugmaker Hospira Inc. supported the latter and also gave Pfizer access to a growing market for biologic imitations of competitors’ drugs.

Now Pfizer’s management team is looking for products or a business to help make up for patent expirations of what once were blockbuster drugs. And a deal could be big or small.

“I don’t think we’re looking at limitations on size,” Read said in an interview. “With size sometimes comes complexity.”

While Read didn’t name specific targets, investors routinely parse his public comments for clues about which companies he’s looking at. GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Shire Plc, both based in the U.K., have been bandied about ever since Pfizer ended its six-month, $120 billion pursuit of London-based AstraZeneca Plc after failing to reach an agreement on price. Relocating to a U.K. address could help Pfizer save on taxes.

After Allergan Plc agreed Monday to sell its generic-drug business to Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., its portfolio of brand-name medications became subject to speculation, including as a target for Pfizer. But the Teva deal is giving Allergan enough cash that it could pursue its own acquisition of as much as $100 billion, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

Track Record

Pfizer has a proven track record of integrating large companies, said Chief Financial Officer Frank D’Amelio. In 2000, New York-based Pfizer paid $116 billion for Warner-Lambert Co.; in 2003 it spent $60 billion for Pharmacia Corp.; and in 2009 it paid more than $60 billion for Wyeth LLC -- acquisitions that gave Pfizer blockbuster products like Lipitor and Prevnar.

“It’s something that I consider a core competency of the company -- we’re good at it,” D’Amelio said in an interview. “One of the nice things about Pfizer is we have the capacity to do any size deal that we want.”

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