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Abbott's White Is The (Only) One

You need to buy the paper edition for $5 or subscribe to the website to see it for yourself, but Barron's has put only one biopharma honcho on its annual list of the world's top-30 CEOs.

Miles White
Getty Images
Miles White

There might have been two, but Genentech's Art Levinson fell off the list because he lost his job when Roche bought his company last year. And apparently Barron's didn't think any other leader from the sector is worthy of replacing him.

So, Abbott's Miles White makes a return appearance on the list. The paper says it picked him again because "his diversification is the envy of the drug industry." I often refer to ABT as kind of a mini Johnson & Johnson . The two companies are similar in that they both make drugs, devices and consumer products.

But JNJ's market cap is $179 billion and ABT's is $82 billion. The only Abbott product I touch a lot is on the consumer products side: the "Zone Perfect" power bar, which I buy several boxes of at a time at Target. And I'm not alone.

Last year, ABT sold $1.2 billion worth of so-called "adult nutritional" products in the U.S., an increase of nine percent. This isn't an endorsement or advertisement of the product, but most of those types of bars taste like cardboard or worse. ABT now makes "Zone" in all sorts of "Double Chocolate" flavors (I'm a dark chocaholic) and they don't taste bad.

There's J&J, Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis,AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer,Merck, the German Merck, Bayer,Roche,Lilly and Bristol. But none of the CEOs of those companies passed muster with the Barron's selection committee. It singled out White for "carrying out just the kind of strategy that's needed in today's drug industry. Diversification is increasingly prized--and Abbott has loads of it."

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I'm betting the rejected/neglected big pharma CEOs are asking, "What do I have to do to get on that list?" One out of the whole sector ain't so hot. What does that say?

Separately, I tweeted that shares of Bristol-Myers Squibb are up 10 percent this month in the wake of one of the company's rare analyst/investor meetings in early March. The pharmaceutical index is only one percent higher. BMY's stock hasn't been at this price in more than two years.

Recently, there have been relatively bullish comments about a skin cancer drug BMY has in late-stage development, but even if it works, the revenue from it won't come anywhere near replacing sales from the bloodthinner Plavix, which goes generic next year. If you have any knowledge or theories about what's driving the outperformance of BMY shares, please share them in the comments section below.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com and follow me on Twitter at mhuckman

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