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Valuation Watch: Bargain Prices Not Enough to Flood PIPEs

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

Although public biotechs are cheap, low prices alone are not enough to drive venture investments in public equity. VCs are looking for companies with attractive assets, especially candidates in later stages.

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Pharmaceutical/Biotechnology Deal Statistics Quarterly, Q1 2009

Highlights from the Q1 2009 review of pharmaceutical and biotechnology dealmaking: With 57 transactions raising $1.09 billion, financing activity for Q1 2009 showed a 137% increase over Q4 2008's total. The largest deal was an initial public offering--Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. sold off 15% of Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. for $684 million-the first since Bioheart Inc.'s February 2008 IPO. In M&A, Big Pharma mega-mergers was the big story as two major players--Wyeth and Schering-Plough--were scooped up by Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. Inc., respectively, in deals together valued at $109 billion, making up 96% of the Q1 M&A dollar volume. Biopharma alliances-with a 25% decrease in number of deals--only reached about half the dollar volume of Q4 2008, but Bristol-Myers Squibb continued its strong performance along with several other Big Pharma players that joined the playing field; GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Novartis AG, each with five alliances, tied as the quarter's most active deal makers. Much of the fourth quarter's alliance activity followed an option-based deal structure with the biotech handling R&D through pre-proof-of-concept after which the Big Pharma partner then takes over later-stage development and commercialization.

Pharmaceutical/Biotechnology Deal Statistics Quarterly, Q1 2009

Highlights from the Q1 2009 review of pharmaceutical and biotechnology dealmaking: With 57 transactions raising $1.09 billion, financing activity for Q1 2009 showed a 137% increase over Q4 2008's total. The largest deal was an initial public offering--Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. sold off 15% of Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. for $684 million-the first since Bioheart Inc.'s February 2008 IPO. In M&A, Big Pharma mega-mergers was the big story as two major players--Wyeth and Schering-Plough--were scooped up by Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. Inc., respectively, in deals together valued at $109 billion, making up 96% of the Q1 M&A dollar volume. Biopharma alliances-with a 25% decrease in number of deals--only reached about half the dollar volume of Q4 2008, but Bristol-Myers Squibb continued its strong performance along with several other Big Pharma players that joined the playing field; GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Novartis AG, each with five alliances, tied as the quarter's most active deal makers. Much of the fourth quarter's alliance activity followed an option-based deal structure with the biotech handling R&D through pre-proof-of-concept after which the Big Pharma partner then takes over later-stage development and commercialization.

Call the Plumber: PIPE Logic is Leaky

Extraordinary times for capital markets have made cheap public biotechs attractive to venture investors. These private investments in public equity (PIPEs) are seen by some as a lifeline to a troubled and undervalued sector, and many VCs are considering significant public investments. But few deals are likely to get done as venture funds set a high bar for investment, regardless of fire-sale prices. Recipients of large PIPE deals may indeed provide venture-like returns for private investors, but an analysis of these financings shows why they are the exceptions that prove the rule.

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