Pfizer Bold Gambit Investors, hungry for quality bonds, swooped up Pfizer's $13.5 billion offering. There is reason to believe that confidence is well-placed.
No one can accuse Pfizer leadership of timidity. With the nation mired in a deep recession, the company Tuesday launched the second largest U.S.-dollar bond issue in history, a $13.5 billion offering to help fund its $68 billion acquisition of Wyeth.
Depending on one's perspective, that is either risky business or a bold but necessary step to secure the company's competitive edge. Investors took the bold viewpoint, quickly grabbing the investment-grade bonds. And why not? Pfizer has relatively little debt and provides a product consumers need in good times and bad – medicine.
The greatest concern, perhaps, is whether Pfizer has learned from past mistakes. The fact that corporate brass acknowledges those mistakes is reason for encouragement.
Backers of Pfizer's hostile takeover of Warner Lambert in November 1999 expected it to boost Pfizer's market value. Instead, the stock has fallen 70 percent since the purchase, outpacing even the dismal 44 percent decline of the Dow Jones during that time. The Pharmacia purchase in 2003 only temporarily arrested the stock's decline.
Instead of boosting development of new drugs, the two mergers tended to undermine it, a fact that Pfizer Chief Executive Jeffrey Kindler acknowledged in January when he announced the Wyeth deal.
Internal havoc caused by the consecutive mergers “hurt morale and hurt productivity. There's no question about it,” he said.
Martin Mackay, president of Pfizer Global Research & Development, told the Wall Street Journal that this time will be different. Pfizer forecasts $4 billion in savings due to the merger. To eliminate the uncertainty that followed past mergers, Mr. Mackay promises quick decisions on where to cut and how to restructure.
Mr. Mackay contends Pfizer will reach out to Wyeth's top scientists to keep them on board, will not disrupt scientists making progress on major projects and will not force smaller units operating effectively to merge.
With top seller Lipitor losing patent protection in 2011, merging is not enough. Pfizer must do it right.