Wednesday, January 31, 2007

M&A Departments

The latest issue of Corporate Dealmaker is a particularly good one, with a number of first-hand views from corporate dealmakers on how they've structured their departments and improved the results their companies have gotten from M&A. It's also got my now-regular back page article; this month is a look at the fun and games of corporate annual review time.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ben Stein on Caremark

Curmudgeon Ben Stein has weighed in on Caremark, and while he gives short shrift to the timing and regulatory advantages of the CVS deal, he rightly points out the lack of regard Caremark management has shown for the (financially) superior ESRX bid, and explores some of the reasons this may be the case.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Caremark - ESRX Developments

Express Scripts (ESRX) continues to battle away for Caremark. Along with the proxy fight, ESRX also filed a lawsuit last week aimed at the breakup fee in the CVS-Caremark deal. I suppose they have to try everything, but the lawsuit isn't going to work; aside from the merits there's a decent chance they don't even have standing to sue.

As predicted, CVS has upped the stakes a bit in an attempt to push things over the top, announcing a $2 special dividend for Caremark shareholders. This isn't quite as good as it appears, since shareholders essentially pay themselves for the post-merger portion of the company attributable to Caremark, making the dividend closer to $1 than $2. However, between that and recent stock price increases, the ESRX bid is now less than 5% better than the CVS proposal. There's no question CVS is now the superior proposal, given the timing benefit and the fact that regulatory clearance has already been obtained.

The next move belongs to ESRX - while they will continue to slog forward on the desperation measures of the proxy fight and lawsuit, expect to see a sweetened bid in the days to come.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Proxy Fight!

Express Scripts is not skulking away from Caremark's summary rejection, opting instead to raise the volume by nominating four directors of its choosing for the Caremark board. This tactic, an old standby of hostile takeovers, allows the successful hostile to get a friendly board which will, in turn, approve the hostile's takeover proposal. CVS, whose friendly proposal has been embraced by Caremark, labeled the ESRX move a "publicity stunt." It's not, unless CVS means that ESRX is using any means necessary to plead its case to Caremark shareholders.

This isn't a move you'd usually see in a deal this big, but Caremark didn't give ESRX many options. What remains to be seen is whether Caremark shareholders will be swayed. While there has been some grumbling, it doesn't seem loud enough yet. Will shareholders decide that the 50% cash component and 13% premium in the ESRX deal outweighs the better timing and increased chance of closing the CVS deal? I'd say no, unless ESRX ups its bid.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Caremark - CVS

New year, new deals to watch. Some time ago, pharmaceutical services provider Caremark (NYSE: CMX) announced a "merger of equals" with CVS (NYSE: CVS) in a transaction valued at $21B. That deal had toddled along for a few months until competitor Express Scripts (NDAQ: ESRX) hurtled in with a $26B cash-and-stock offer. Today brings Caremark's rejection of the Express Script proposal, and the unusually detailed statement from Caremark is well worth a read.

After the expected litany of reasons why Caremark thinks a combination with CVS offers better strategic benefits, growth opportunities, etc., we get to three of the real reasons Caremark prefers CVS: Less integration risk, quicker timing and greater closing certainty (the CVS deal has already passed antitrust review). These are valid concerns and would certainly justify taking a lower price, particularly considering the concentration in the industry and the considerable (9+ months) timing benefit. Still, with a 20% pricing gap between the proposals you've got to wonder if Caremark has really taken the time to review the merits of a deal with Express Scripts, or at least play it out to leverage CVS to a better price or terms.

There's also a lot of drama in the backstory here, relating to options backdating, indemnity and officer compensation that I won't get into here but which may make the issue of closing certainty that much more important for Caremark management. How that works for shareholders is another matter. I suspect this one won't move quietly to closing.