Financial News

  • 30 May 2014, 7:55

Glaxo Tempts Bidders With 7.5bn Drugs Sale

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Britain's biggest pharmaceuticals company, has approached potential buyers of brands including the ulcer remedy Zantac and Seroxat, a well-known antidepressant.

Sky News has learnt that GSK has invited a small number of private equity firms, including Advent International, Blackstone and KKR, to consider making offers for some or all of the roughly 50 medicines in its Established Products Portfolio.

Based on a frequently used valuation multiple of two times' annual sales, the assets could be worth as much as 7.5bn in total, according to one source.

It is unclear how interested the private equity firms are in pursuing any deal with GSK.

GSK is highly unlikely to offload the portfolio, which also includes Imitrex, a migraine treatment, and Zofran, which is prescribed to combat symptoms of nausea, as a single entity.

The company is more likely to sell the rights to bundles of the products or individual medicines in order to maximise the value it can generate from any disposals, the source added.

Transactions may focus on licensing deals in the US or Western Europe rather than emerging markets.

News of the approach to prospective private equity buyers comes in the same week that GSK disclosed that it was the subject of a formal Serious Fraud Office probe into its "commercial practices" following allegations that its staff bribed doctors to prescribe its products in China and other overseas markets.

A spokesman for GSK echoed recent comments made by Sir Andrew Witty, its chief executive, that it was open-minded about the future of the established products portfolio.

"We continue to evaluate options to maximise the value of our portfolio and are currently reviewing [it], he said.

Lazard, the investment bank, has been appointed to oversee discussions with potential buyers.

At GSK's first-quarter results announced last month, it said that sales from the non-core portfolio fell by 11% to 814m "principally reflecting lower sales of Lovaza, down 25%, and continuing generic competition to a number of products across the portfolio, including Seroxat/Paxil, down 15%, and Malarone, down 34%".

The company has already begun selling some non-core products, announcing an agreement last September to sell thrombosis brands Arixtra and Fraxiparine to Aspen, the South African drugs group, for 700m. GSK owns an 18.6% stake in Aspen.

GSK has been active in reshaping its business in recent months, unveiling a three-part transaction with Novartis which involved the British company acquiring its Swiss rival's vaccines arm and its oncology division moving in the opposite direction.

Sir Andrew effectively ruled out acting as a 'white knight' during Pfizer's recent pursuit of AstraZeneca, which ended - at least temporarily - on Monday.

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