NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Zoetis  (ZTS - Get Report) in recent months has been the subject of takeover speculation, possibly for Valeant  (VRX), but a Jefferies analyst told investors today in a research note that he views a deal with a unit of healthcare giant Bayer  (BAYRY) as "highly likely" for the animal medicine company.

BACKGROUND: Bill Ackman of Pershing Square, who owns stakes in both Zoetis and Valeant, said in early May while speaking on CNBC that Zoetis is a "great” business on a standalone basis, but he also spoke of the company's strategic value. Ackman added, however, that he was "not sure" that Valeant was the best acquirer of Zoetis. Subsequently, in late June, The Wall Street Journal reported that Valeant made a preliminary approach regarding a potential deal to buy Zoetis. CNBC's David Faber said the next day, citing his own sources, that Valeant reached out to Zoetis as a courtesy to common shareholder Ackman and was unlikely to pursue an acquisition of the company, though he cautioned then Valeant could change its approach and pursue a deal.

BAYER: Jefferies analyst Jeffrey Holford said in a note today that he views a tie-up between Zoetis and Bayer's Animal Health business in 2016 as "highly likely." He sees Mylan's (MYL - Get Report) acquisition of Abbott's (ABT) non U.S. developed markets specialty and branded generics business as a potential proxy for how a transaction could be structured, adding that such a "spinversion" could achieve up to 36% long-term earnings accretion for Zoetis. Holford reiterated a Buy rating on Zoetis with a $60 price target, while downgrading Bayer to Hold, citing valuation following the recent outperformance of its shares.

IDEXX: While being discussed as a target, some analysts have also opined on companies that Zoetis could pursue as a buyer. On June 29, Canaccord said that in investor meetings with IDEXX  (IDXX - Get Report) executives declined to comment on Zoetis' potential interest in scaling up its animal health diagnostics business. Canaccord added that it thought Zoetis could make a bid for IDEXX. The firm reiterated its Buy rating and $80 price target on IDEXX shares at that time.

PRICE ACTION: Since June 25, the day the Journal first reported on Valeant's preliminary takeover approach to Zoetis, the animal health company's shares have dropped nearly 4%. Zoetis closed down 20c to $47.80 on Friday.

Reporting by Jason Keil.

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