By Barry S. Cohen, Stock Traders Daily
Long been rumored a takeover target, Shire (NASDAQ:SHPG) is on the acquisition hunt itself, according to CEO-in-waiting Flemming Ornskov. Onrskov made his intentions known at a company hosted chit-chit with analysts in London, according to an article in Bloomberg.
That would be a switch. It appears the chased is planning to become the chaser.
Ornskov appears to be off and running at Shire, where he assumes the helm on April 30, succeeding Angus Russell. Russell has served as CEO of the company for the past 13 years and is credited with building a little specialist company that was essentially reformulating medicines into a global biotech company, with a focus on rare diseases.
Ornskov comes to Shire from Bayer, where he served as Chief Marketing Officer and Global Head, Strategic Marketing for General and Specialty Medicine from 2010 to 2012. His resume also includes stints a Bausch & Lomb, Merck (NYSE:MRK) and Novartis (NYSE:NVS).
During the London gathering, Ornskov made no mention of the company's interest or willingness or interest to jump into the arms of a suitor. Some in the industry think Shire would be the perfect cure for what ails AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN).
Instead, he said Shire is engaged in some exciting deal talks, a few of which are in an advanced stage. Not so advanced, however, that they're likely to be consummated this year. Perhaps the new CEO was being a bit cagey on the acquisition front, but he did say the company is shooting for double-digit sales growth over the longer term and is willing to expand into other businesses to achieve that. Will there be a deal or not?
Double-digit revenue gains would represent a vast improvement over what the company recently reported for the fourth quarter of 2012. Quarterly revenues increased five percent to $1,201 million driven by higher product sales and royalties. However, it was an 84 percent drop in earnings that caused investors to punish Shire shares when it released results on February 14. The earnings decline was attributed to increased costs and generic competition for its attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drug, Adderall XR.
During the past year, Shire's shares have declined about 9 percent while the index of large European pharmaceutical companies is up about 16 percent.
Shire got a new generic competitor for Adderrall XR this week when Teva (NYSE:TEVA), the largest maker of generic medicines in the world, won FDA for its version of the drug. A copy sold by Actavis (NYSE:ACT) created a double negative effect in 2012, when Shire lost sales and royalties from a version of the drug sold by Impax Laboratories (NASDAQ:IPXL)
So it appears Dr. Ornskov has his work cut out for him at Shire. Still, several of the company's key products showed double-digit sales growth in the fourth quarter, and Shire continues to invest in its pipeline. In combination with a key acquisition or two, this might be enough to enable the new CEO to make as big a mark as his predecessor.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.