Is Bristol Myers Stalking Amgen?

When Ciba-Geigy announced in mid-November that it was buying a controlling stake in Chiron, a frantic guessing game began: Which big biotech company would be the next takeover target? Some buyout pros think the answer is Amgen (AMGN), whose stock has risen from 55 in November to 63 on Jan. 31.

Investors believe the acquirer will be Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies. The betting is that Bristol-Myers will pay 90 a share for Amgen, one of the few biotech companies with successful products in a fast-growing market--and making fistfuls of money to boot. Its chief products include Epogen, which promotes the production of red blood cells, and Neupogen, which stimulates the production of white blood cells. Analysts expect Amgen will post earnings of $3.10 for 1994 vs. 64 cents for 1993 and $3.65 for this year.

Bristol-Myers, whose stock just hit a 52-week high, has been searching for a biotech company with proven products, says a California money manager who has been accumulating Amgen shares. Key Bristol-Myers products include the cardiovascular drugs Capoten and Corgard and anti-infection medicines Azactam and Cefzil.

As the world's largest biotechnology company, with 1994 estimated sales of $1.6 billion, Amgen, which is based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., could provide Bristol-Myers with the new products it needs to maintain its leadership. Amgen declined comment.

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