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Bristol-Myers might Scuttle ImClone bid.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (New York) might be willing to drop its quest to acquire partner biotech company ImClone Systems Inc. (New York)--under unspecified conditions. Jean-Marc Huet, who became chief financial officer at Bristol-Myers five months ago, told analysts last week his company could abandon its $4.5 billion offer for the 17% of ImClone it doesn't already own. "There are situations in which we are willing, and we've disclosed that, we're willing to walk away," Huet said in response to a question at a pharmaceutical investors conference in London sponsored by Merrill Lynch. "You should never fall in love with an asset," Huet said. The deal would be a "very nice bolt-on acquisition" that would simplify the companies' relationship and give Bristol-Myers new capabilities, according to Huet. Asked what his company will do with its available cash--including $3.7 million in net proceeds from its August sale of its high-tech dressing and wound-care business, ConvaTec--Huet said that if the ImClone acquisition doesn't happen, "we have a variety of different alternatives in terms of cash usage."

Huet's comment was the latest in the recent verbal sparring since Bristol-Myers on July 31 made an unsolicited offer of $60 per share for ImClone, which has just one product on the market, the lucrative colon- and head-and-neck-cancer drug Erbitux. Days later, ImClone said the buyout offer "substantially undervalues" the company. Its chairman, activist billionaire investor Carl Icahn, was said to be personally against the deal. The week prior, ImClone said it was considering a buyout offer worth $70 per share--roughly $6.1 billion--from an unidentified large pharmaceutical company. The next day, Bristol-Myers reiterated its $60 per share offer, complaining in a letter to Icahn and ImClone's board of directors that ImClone officials had yet to talk to Bristol about its offer. Icahn then fired back that he had tried to reach Bristol-Myers CEO James N. Cornelius to discuss ImClone's position before making it public.

All of that seems to leave the next move up to the secret suitor, which has until this Thursday to review ImClone's books and decide whether to make a firm offer. ImClone shares closed the week down $5.89, or 9%, to $59.91. Bristol-Myers fell $1.24, or 6%, to $21.
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Title Annotation:TOP STORIES
Publication:MondayMorning
Date:Sep 22, 2008
Words:373
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