UPDATE 5-Sanofi looking at U.S. deals, stocks jump
* Sanofi looking at several U.S. acquisitions - source
* Could include 1-2 deals of at least $15 bln - source
* Analysts say deal possible but not certain
* Shares of Biogen, Allergan, Genzyme jump (Adds additional source information and analyst comment)
By Jessica Hall and Debra Sherman
PHILADELPHIA/CHICAGO, July 2 (Reuters) - French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA) is looking at several U.S. acquisitions, including one or two that could be worth at least $15 billion, a source familiar with the situation said on Friday.
Shares of pharmaceutical stocks including Biogen Idec Inc (BIIB.O), Botox maker Allergan Inc (AGN.N) and Genzyme Corp GENZ.O shot up on Friday on speculation that they could be targets for Sanofi.
Biogen rose 5 percent, Genzyme was up 6 percent and Allergan gained 6 percent.
Sanofi's board met this week in Paris and discussed several acquisition options, but no decision has been made on possible targets, said the source, who spoke to Reuters.
A separate source familiar with the situation cautioned that nothing was imminent or definite.
Both the sources, not authorized to speak to the press, declined to be identified.
Sanofi declined comment.
Another person familiar with the situation, but who declined to be named, said a discussion of possible targets dominated the board meeting. Directors discussed a number of companies, all based in the United States; but one was highlighted, and after the meeting, directors decided that was the one they might seek.
The pharmaceutical and healthcare industries have seen a number of large-scale deals in the past few years, such as Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) buying Wyeth, Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) acquiring Schering-Plough and Novartis AG (NOVN.VX) agreeing to purchase U.S. eye care company Alcon Inc ACL.N.
"In big pharma, everybody is looking at everything and they all have big departments looking at possible acquisitions," said Raymond James analyst Thierry Verrecchia.
Bloomberg earlier reported that Sanofi was preparing an acquisition worth $20 billion or more in the United States. It said that Sanofi's chief executive, Chris Viehbacher, briefed the board on the deal at a special meeting this week, citing two people familiar with the matter.
Earlier this week, Sanofi bought U.S. biotech TargeGen Inc, a developer of treatments for blood diseases, for as much as $560 million.
Analysts cited Allergan, Biogen and Genzyme as possible targets, with market values of $17 billion, $12.7 billion and $13.5 billion, respectively.
"The market is saying it thinks it's either Allergan, Biogen or Genzyme," said Miller Tabak & Co analyst Les Funtleyder. "Right now, this is all just speculation.
Funtleyder said any one of those companies would add to Sanofi's pipeline.
"Given their recent acquisitions, you can see that Sanofi has been moving away from its pure play pharma model," Funtleyder said. "None of these three is out of the question."
He said the trend toward consolidation is likely to continue, especially since there is still good access to capital for most companies.
Other pharmaceutical stocks that rose included Celgene Corp (CELG.O), which has a market value of $23 billion, up 2 percent, and Gilead Sciences Inc (GILD.O), which has a value of $30 billion, up 2 percent.
A U.S.-based biotech acquisition would be a good strategic fit for Sanofi, said UBS analyst Fabian Wenner.
"What they need most is biological antibody competencies," Wenner said, adding that this put Biogen and Allergen in the frame, while Amgen Inc or Bristol-Myers Squibb Co were too big for Sanofi.
Sanofi shares fell 2.4 percent to 47.06 euros.
"The price is down as people are scared about the price tag, but if the acquisition is accretive it might not be bad," Wenner said.
Morningstar analyst Damien Conover noted that Sanofi is facing some patent losses and probably wants to fill the voids via an acquisition.
"They have some holes they need to fill. That can be done internally, but they have the cash flow to do (acquisitions)," he said.
Acquiring Allergan, the maker of Botox and breast implants, "would be a step away for them and doesn't seems a likely choice."
He said acquiring a U.S. biotech firm would seem to fit more closely with Sanofi's strategy.
"I could see them doing that, and also getting into emerging markets. They have the cash flow to do both," Conover added. (Reporting by Jessica Hall in Philadelphia, Debra Sherman in Chicago; additional reporting by Marcel Michelson in Paris, Deepa Seetharaman in New York; writing by Megan Davies in New York; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Steve Orlofsky)
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