As Valeant Pharmaceuticals Intl Inc (NYSE:VRX) CEO Joe Papa attempts to navigate its water-logged helm, he has suddenly changed course. The man that once defended, “I don’t need to sell anything,” back in May’s UBS Global Healthcare Conference, is suddenly sputtering a different tune.
The fact of the matter is VRX is in desperate need of a leader willing to jump ship and cling to the essential core lifeboat of assets. Even if that means the fallen biotech giant needs to part with its best: Bausch & Lomb, VRX’s $8.7 billion acquisition the company seized in 2013. However, Papa hopes his struggling ship’s troubles will not come to having to part ways with what he deems “very important to the future of us,” as he said in an interview with CNBC.
When asked if the eye care franchise was such a prized, protected asset it would be considered completely “off the table for selling,” Papa had to admit he is not in a position to answer in absolutes. At this point, Papa is desperate for VRX to survive as it drowns in tens of billions in debt and a barrage of legal drama ahead.
In addition to its eye care franchise, Papa is willing to go to great lengths to protect the company’s dermatology franchise, from a $475 million deal for Precision Dermatology, a $455 million deal for Sanofi’s Dermik unit, a $345 million deal for Johnson & Johnson’s Ortho Dermatologic to a $2.6 billion deal for Medicis.
Still, Papa has to concede, “Would we have to look at something if someone came forward with something? Of course we would, because we’re a public company and we have over $30 billion of debt. We have to look at it.” It would be a bitter pill for Papa to have to take if that day finally comes, considering he takes immense pride in his company owning “one of the best product portfolios in dermatology today.”
For now, VRX is resting its hopes that in abandoning what Papa calls “noncore assets,” the company could garner up to $8 billion in potential proceeds, an option Papa has prioritized full steam ahead of selling last resort assets like eye care or dermatology.
It is sadly a different world for Valeant from the times its stock hit a record highs. Since then, amid harrowing legal allegations and fallen investor trust in the giant that once soared, the stock has dipped a dramatic 90% drop. Papa came aboard ship in May to be VRX’s last hope, and he intends to steer the ship through every rough tide to regain the glory days of a once buzzing $10.51 billion business.
First, Papa must guide Valeant through the likely legal payments it will face in the future. He hopes to restore investor confidence by rebuilding the integrity of the giant, creating what he likes to consider “the New Valeant.” With a board of directors full of nine fresh faces, including March addition hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman, CEO and founder of Pershing Capital, Papa intends to capsize debt load, along with whatever assets are necessary for grasping longevity, and generate renewed earnings from a torrent of asset sales. If Papa has it his way, Bausch & Lomb and the esteemed dermatology portfolio will not be easily ceded to the plank. But to withstand the fray, Papa in his 30 plus years in the pharma-verse will have to consider even making his worst nightmare an earnings reality.