GSK Buys Novartis out of Joint Venture for $13B

The acquisition of Novartis' stake will give GSK full control over the revenues from such products as Sensodyne toothpaste and the Excedrin pain re...
Matthew HellerMarch 27, 2018

Two consumer healthcare giants are shaking up their portfolios as GlaxoSmithKline announced it would buy Novartis out of their joint venture for $13 billion.

The joint venture was formed as part of a deal between GSK and Novartis in 2014. Its products include Sensodyne toothpaste, pain reliever Excedrin, and the over-the-counter flu medicine Theraflu.

GSK said Tuesday it will acquire Novartis’ 36.5% stake in the venture to “capture the full value of GSK’s consumer healthcare growth.” The business reported sales of 7.8 billion pounds last year, representing 4% compound annual growth since 2015, with an overall improvement in operating margins from 11.3% in 2015 to 17.7% in 2017.

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The British conglomerate also noted that under the terms of the 2014 deal, Novartis has the right to require GSK to purchase its stake in the venture.

The buyout “is expected to benefit adjusted earnings and cash flows, helping us accelerate efforts to improve performance,” GSK Chief Executive Emma Walmsley said in a news release. “Most importantly, it also removes uncertainty and allows us to plan use of our capital for other priorities, especially pharmaceuticals R&D.”

GSK last week decided to drop its effort to buy Pfizer’s consumer healthcare business. That decision will have led Walmsley “to remove uncertainty by bringing all the consumer revenues in-house and assisting toward efficient capital allocation,” Ketan Patel, co-manager of the Amity UK Fund at EdenTree Investment Management, who holds GSK shares, told Reuters.

“Long-term investors will welcome the greater clarity [the buyout] brings to both companies,” he added.

GSK in 2014 traded its oncology business to Novartis in return for majority ownership of the consumer joint venture and Novartis’ vaccines unit.

“Although some pharmaceuticals groups have been keen to hold consumer care products, intense price competition online, mainly from Amazon, as well as cheaper store-brand products, have led others to doubt their stable returns longer-term,” Reuters said.

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan said the buyout “will strengthen our ability to allocate capital to grow our core businesses, drive shareholder returns, and execute value creating bolt-on acquisitions.”