Celgene deal: ‘Tremendous excitement’ at BMS despite shareholder jitters

After assessing over 70 opportunities, Bristol-Myers Squibb insists the proposed $74 billion acquisition of Celgene is the ‘right and best’ option for the firm.

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) announced in January it had entered into an agreement to buy Celgene for $74 billion (€65 billion) in what will be the largest megamerger ever in the biopharma space. The deal has been undermined by investor groups, which have described the proposed acquisition as “poorly conceived and ill-advised.”

But speaking at the Cowen Health Care Conference earlier this month, BMS CEO Giovanni Caforio said “there’s tremendous excitement at Bristol-Myers Squibb about the acquisition of Celgene,” and the planned merger is the “best path forward” for his firm.

Image: iStock/Baris-Ozer

“This is the right option and the best option for Bristol-Myers Squibb. It creates a really strong company. It creates a stronger company that is better positioned for long-term and sustainable growth. That’s why we’ve been enthusiastic about the acquisition of Celgene, and that’s why our board has been supportive from the beginning,” he said (transcript here). “This is not a defensive deal. We didn’t do it because there was an offer on the table.”

Caforio did, however, tell stakeholders the Celgene deal came following a long period of M&A analysis.

“Bristol-Myers Squibb has a history of transforming and really challenging its model to think about how to be successful in the future, so specifically in this case we actually started looking at a very large number of opportunities,” he said.

“At the beginning, we looked at over 70 opportunities. We focused very quickly on 20 opportunities that really ranged from a small number of more transformational deals, all the way to a number of [serial acquisitions]. And we decided that, in fact, the acquisition of Celgene was the best path forward for Bristol-Myers Squibb. It was a very thorough process that lasted several months.”

If approved, the deal is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2019.

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