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Amgen, Inc. (AMGN) and Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ONXX): Half a Billion Dollars’ Worth of Drama

A finale has at last arrived for the biotech drama of summer 2013. Amgen, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN) announced yesterday that it will buy Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ONXX) for $10.4 billion, or $125 per share. Eight weeks ago, the bigger biotech offered around $10 billion, or $120 per share, for Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ONXX). That’s roughly half a billion dollars worth of drama, but it was a lot of fun to watch.

A riveting plot line
It didn’t take long after the news first broke at the end of June about Amgen, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN)’s initial overture for Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ONXX) to say “no” to the deal. Onyx wanted to sell, but Amgen, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN)’s price “significantly undervalued” the company. At least, that’s what Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ONXX) officials said then.

Amgen, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN)

Speculation began almost immediately as to how high Onyx’s price tag would ultimately go — and which big company would close the deal. As for the price, Geoffrey Porges with investment firm Sanford C. Bernstein guessed that Onyx would go for $150 per share but said that $180 per share was in the realm of possibility. Deutsche Bank analyst  Robyn Karnauskas thought that the sale price would be around $148 per share.

Quite a few companies were seen as potential acquirers. Reports floated that Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) was interested. That made sense, considering that there was already a connection between the two companies. Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) received Breakthrough Therapy Designation from the Food and Drug Administration in April on a breast cancer drug that it licensed from Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ONXX).

Novartis AG (ADR) (NYSE:NVS) also was seen as a serious contender. The thought was that Onyx would be a good fit with the Swiss drugmaker’s cancer drug lineup. Of course, that would be true of several other big pharmaceutical companies as well.

Even the Securities and Exchange Commission became involved in the drama along the way. During the week following Amgen, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN)’s initial offer, the SEC froze the assets of what it called “suspicious foreign traders” who appeared to be engaged in insider trading of call options on Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ONXX) stock.

More recently, as Amgen, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN) expressed renewed interest in the deal, Onyx again threw a twist into the plot by hesitating to reveal data from an ongoing clinical study of blood-cancer drug Kyprolis. The issue obviously was resolved, but it could have cost Onyx. Amgen, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN) had been reportedly offering $130 per share prior to the snag.

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