GSK Chief Sees More Unit IPOs as Options

21.01.2015 -

GlaxoSmithKline could consider more partial public share offerings for component units as it evolves in the coming years, potentially pointing to a break-up of the group if this offers value to shareholders, CEO Andrew Witty has told the news agency Reuters.

Witty indicated that the group's large consumer health business would be more viable as a standalone operation following the conclusion of a $20 billion asset swap with Novartis, especially if it bought additional assets.

GSK is forming a consumer health joint venture with Novartis, as well as buying vaccines and selling cancer drugs. The British-Swiss deal is expected to close in the first half of 2015, and Novartis has an option to sell its JV stake to GSK after three years.

In October 2014, the UK's biggest drugmaker announced plans for an initial public offering (IPO) of a minority stake in its HIV business, ViiV Healthcare, which the CEO said could serve as a model for future moves.

While nothing is planned for the near term, Witty said the options for changing the structure of the group are considerable and management would be very pragmatic. With more mergers and acquisitions predicted for the industry as a whole, he said GSK will continue to eschew big, pricey drug deals.

The drugmaker had a rough ride in 2014, after being fined nearly $500 million for bribing Chinese doctors and suffering a bigger than expected fall in sales of its ageing but still top-selling lung drug Advair.

A new chairman, Philip Hampton, will take over in September 2015, but management is not waiting around to shake things up, given investors' concerns about an underperforming share price. In addition to the spin-off of ViiV, GSK is also cutting costs by a further £1 billion.