Here's How John Paulson Is Positioning His Celgene/Bristol Trade

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire John Paulson sees a 10 percent to 20 percent chance that Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. receives a takeover bid and he’s positioning his Celgene Corp. trade based on that risk, he said in an interview on Mike Samuels’ “According to Sources” podcast.

Bristol-Myers “is vulnerable and it has an attractive pipeline to several potential acquirers,” Paulson said in the podcast released Monday. “It’s a reasonable probability,” he said. “You have to be prepared someone may show up. It’s an attractive spread, but you can’t take that big a position.”

Here's How John Paulson Is Positioning His Celgene/Bristol Trade

Paulson has the Celgene/Bristol-Myers trade as a 3 percent portfolio position, though his firm is short a pharma index rather than Bristol-Myers for about half of the position. If an activist did show up, it would likely blow out the spread from its current $13.85 to probably $20 and, if an actual bid arrived, he said the spread could move out to $40.

“I just don’t feel comfortable being short Bristol in this environment,” Paulson said. “You can sort of get the same economics by shorting an index, maybe even do better because, since Bristol came down, if the pharma sector goes up, Bristol may go up more than the pharma sector, which would increase the profitability on the Celgene. ”

Celgene fell as much as 2.2 percent on Tuesday, its biggest intraday drop since Dec. 27. Bristol-Myers also sank as much as 2.2 percent, the most since Jan. 9.

The question of whether Bristol-Myers receives a hostile takeover offer has been the top issue for investors since the Celgene deal was announced. The drugmaker was pressured in February 2017 to add three new directors after holding talks with activist hedge fund Jana Partners LLC. The same month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Carl Icahn had taken a stake and saw Bristol-Myers as a takeover target.

Pfizer Inc., AbbVie Inc. or Amgen Inc. “make varying amounts of sense as suitors, though we see many barriers to someone making an offer,” Credit Suisse analyst Vamil Divan wrote in a note earlier this month. AbbVie and Amgen “have the balance sheet strength and could look to beef up their oncology presence.”

CNBC’s David Faber said Jan. 3 -- the day the Celgene deal was announced -- that there had been “absolutely” no talks between Bristol-Myers and potential acquirers.

Jefferies analyst Michael Yee wrote in note Tuesday that he doesn’t expect an unsolicited offer for Bristol-Myers to “thwart” its Celgene purchase. He sees the deal spread as “quite attractive” again at the current range of 18 percent to 20 percent after it had earlier narrowed to 11 percent to 12 percent.

Paulson managed about $8.7 billion at the the beginning of November.

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