BY Fraser Tennant
Following a record-breaking 2015 which saw deals total $300bn, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity within the biopharmaceutical industry is set to continue at a “brisk” pace in 2016, according to the new EY ‘Firepower Index and Growth Gap Report’ published this week.
The EY Index, which measures the ability of biopharma companies to fund M&A transactions based on the strength of their balance sheets and their market capitalisation, reveals that the drivers of biopharma M&A last year included payer consolidation, rising healthcare costs and the intensification of companies’ growth imperatives throughout the industry.
Among the key findings highlighted in the Index are that: (i) deal activity in early 2015 was driven by specialty pharma companies with a majority of deals by total valuation in the specialty or generics sector (big pharma grabbed the limelight later in 2015 while biotech experienced more modest deals); (ii) big pharma’s aggregate growth gap – the revenue shortfall below global biopharmaceutical sales growth – remained stuck at near $100bn due in part to foreign exchange headwinds; and (iii) specialty pharma’s firepower, has decreased by nearly 50 percent following a recent series of debt-fuelled acquisitions and falling equity valuations.
“While we can’t predict more large transformational deals over $100bn in 2016, we do expect a continued brisk pace for acquisitions and a continuation of the robust divestiture environment, as companies seek to focus on and gain scale in their chosen therapeutic areas,” said Glen Giovannetti, EY’s Global Life Sciences leader. “Three times as many companies now possess at least $3bn in firepower than a year ago, meaning more competition for targets as well as a longer list of potential acquirers for divestitures.”
However, while the Index makes it very clear that biopharma companies continue to benefit from an era of increased drug approvals and healthy pipelines, there are a number of challenges and considerations likely to drive M&A in 2016. These include a renewed focus on value-based drug pricing, staunch competition across key therapeutic battlegrounds and consolidated payer clout, which may exacerbate existing growth gaps and result in a continued feverish deal environment.
“These pressures may make the lofty heights of $200bn in annual M&A the new normal for the foreseeable future,” concluded Jeffrey Greene, EY’s Global Life Sciences Transaction Advisory Services leader.