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Lilly's "Secret" (About ImClone) Is Out--Or Is It?

Thursday, 2 Oct 2008 | 1:02 PM ET

The Wall Street Journal unmasked the identity--Eli Lilly--of ImClone's secret suitor. A spokesman for LLY said he couldn't confirm or deny the report.

IMCL put outa press release last night saying that the mystery bidder has asked to remain anonymous.

And, interestingly, the press release no longer put a dollar amount on the "proposal" that's supposedly on the table.

That could explain why shares of IMCL are trading well below the $70 that ImClone originally claimed was the competing bidder's offer. Shares of IMCL, which spiked on the news late yesterday about LLY's interest, have been trading up and down today.

Miller Tabak healthcare analyst Les Funtleyder is enjoying this Carl Icahn-driven story as much as I am. In a research note to clients this morning he writes, "The kabuki theateresque news flow that this transaction has encouraged will likely continue." Icahn is a big investor in and the Chairman of ImClone. At least he's keeping things interesting for folks whose attention to the bailout story might be waning. His last statement called BMY's $62-a-share offer "absurd."

Meantime, Mike King at Rodman & Renshaw is telling clients to stay on the sidelines because, "We do not envision a materially higher counter offer from Bristol." A spokesman for BMY said, "No comment," regarding the WSJ report about LLY. R&R makes a market in IMCL.

LLY bought its impotence drug partner Icos. It consistently denies that it's interested in buying its diabetes drug partner Amylin Pharmaceuticals . But several analysts and industry-watchers think buying IMCL makes sense for LLY which, like a lot of other big drug companies, may want to increase its footprint in oncology.

No matter who gets ImClone, if anyone, what is it about this limelight-loving biotech? First, it was made infamous by a trading scandal that ensnared one of the most famous women in America. Then, one of the most colorful activist investors in the world takes a stake in it, helps revive the stock, and now is apparently orchestrating a juicy, little bidding war. As Deutsche Bank's Barbara Ryan writes in a research note to clients today, "It remains interesting. Rather than predict (the outcome), we will watch this scenario play out."

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com

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