Novartis’ biotech shopping spree stays focused on the low-budget specials of the day

Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez

Novartis inked a string of acquisitions in the fourth quarter, but they barely registered on the Big Pharma Richter scale for M&A. There was a deal worth up to $665 million for Oklahoma City-based Selexys. The UK’s Ziarco was swallowed whole after shopping itself for around a billion dollars. A deal for Encore Vision in Fort Worth wound up the year.

Small, low profile companies. Small deals. Little or no details on the numbers.

That seems to be Novartis’s sweet spot for now as it navigates around the pricey shopping malls where the big deals for companies like Medivation or Actelion can be found. Novartis is willing to go far off the beaten trail to find their price specials of the day.

For the record, this kind of discount shopping doesn’t even fit into their own business plan of striking deals in the $2 billion to $5 billion range. They’re too small for that. But Novartis doesn’t sound enthusiastic about waging a bidding war against the likes of a Pfizer or J&J in search of marketed or hotly sought after late-stage blockbusters.

“We look at everything, the bigger the target the higher the premium seems to be right now,” Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez told Reuters today. “We have gone upstream, and, if you heard, in the fourth quarter we announced four transactions that were quite early-stage, but they supplement the pipelines of our innovative medicines divisions.”

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