Will McKesson and Celesio hook up?

It's still just speculation that the No. 1 US wholesaler will make a bold bid for access to European and other international markets

Usually, by the time rumors about a pending acquisition reach the pages of national newspapers, the deal is about to happen. But the rumored merger of McKesson and Celesio AG (Stuttgart, Germany), featured in the Wall St. Journal on Oct. 8, still hasn’t advanced. Speculation has grown, meanwhile, that McKesson and CVS Caremak might hook up together to make the bid. Other rumors are that CVS Caremark alone, or perhaps Cardinal Health, might make a bid.

Celesio is primarily a wholesaler in Europe and other parts of the world; it also operates 2,200 pharmacies of its own, and is the primarily supplier to 4,100 others. It grossed about $30.7 billion last year; not including the sale of one of its business units, Movianto, to Owens & Minor.

The McKesson/CVS Caremark/Celesio matchup, if consummated, is very much following the pattern of AmerisourceBergen/Walgreens/Alliance Boots, now about a year old. In that case, Walgreens had a prior merger agreement with Alliance Boots; then ABC entered, and has allowed for those two to own equity in ABC. The action has generally been regarded as a good one for the allied companies, providing them with greater leverage toward pharma manufacturers (especially for generics), and to increase the flow of OTC and other healthcare products from or to the US. The bigger picture is that the biopharma industry, accustomed to operating multinationally, is now confronting equally multinational tradking partners.