When Carl Icahn (whom we probably owe an apology since we thought a $70/share bid was a pipe dream) first announced that Imclone had a mystery bidder willing to fork over $10/share more than Erbitux partner BMS, he suggested that bid was subject to due diligence, but not financing.
Well, Lilly must have left its moneyclip in its other pants, because here comes the credit card. And it's too late to play credit card roulette.
Just how easy it will be for Lilly--or anyone for that matter--to tap the credit markets for a few billion dollars here or there remains to be seen. The newly passed-into-law $700 gagillion bailout hasn't exactly greased the lending wheels just yet.
Our comprehensive coverage of the deal is at Pink Sheet DAILY, where Jessica Merrill notes that Lilly "intends to finance the acquisition with a combination of cash and debt. The firm expects the debt portion to amount to $2 billion to $3 billion. With today's tight credit markets, funding deals has become far from a sure thing, but Lilly said it remains 'confident' about its ability to finance the transaction."
Lilly shareholders? Maybe not so much. True it was a particularly bleak day for the markets yesterday (with the exceptions of Imclone, Dendreon, and, probably, Campbell's Soup), but Lilly shares were taken to the woodshed, down nearly 3% on the day. (In comparison, Bristol-Myers was only down 1%, its own fall cushioned by the $1 billion cash it stands to gain from its own 17% stake in Imclone.)
If pharma's rock is the credit crisis, its hard place is the fact that it will likely need to keep spending a ton of cash to access the medicines it has failed to develop on its own. So how will Big Pharmas like Lilly reconcile the two competing realities? Maybe Uncle Sam will help.
Remember the hilariously titled American Jobs Creation Act that allowed companies to repatriate vast sums of cash at much friendlier tax rates? (Ostensibly this was to lead to job creation but in reality the cash flowed mostly unimpeded to shareholders via dividends and share buybacks.)
Pharma has already succeeded in restarting its stalled R&D tax credit, which was tucked into the bailout bill (now known by the gentler acronym TARP), perhaps it is also hard at work lobbying for another AJCA so it can bring home more cash to pay for the alliances and acquisitions it so badly needs to bolster its own R&D.
Meanwhile the debate about whether Lilly paid too much for Imclone will continue. Lilly has clearly signaled its intentions to be part of the upper echelon of oncology companies--along with just about every other Big Pharma--and what you think of Lilly's $70/share Imclone offer will probably boil down to the faith you have in Imclone's pipeline (and Lilly's ability to hang on to the next-generation EGFR inhibitor 11F8).
image from flickr user lennonisgod used under a creative commons license.