Israel's Teva seeks partners for new drugs to relieve pressure

JERUSALEM/LONDON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Teva Pharmaceutical Industries TEVA.TATEVA.N is looking to team up with other drugmakers to fund some of its development pipeline as it struggles with debts and expiring patents.

FILE PHOTO: A building belonging to Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, the world's biggest generic drugmaker and Israel's largest company, is seen in Jerusalem February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo

“We are looking for partners ... a series of partners. It’s not to fund the whole pipeline, just some projects in it. A small part of it,” Teva spokeswoman Denise Bradley told Reuters in an email on Wednesday.

Israel’s Teva needs extra financial firepower to develop new drugs and has few options left other than striking alliances with big pharma players, sources familiar with the company said.

“Teva will avoid injecting any extra funding in new drugs,” one of the sources said. “They will partner with other big pharmas and share the proceeds.”

Earlier this month the world’s largest generics drugmaker, which is facing price erosion in the United States, reported a steeper than expected drop in second-quarter earnings, slashed its dividend by 75 percent and cut its 2017 forecast.

Teva is saddled with debts amounting to some $35 billion, mostly from financing its $40.5 billion purchase of Actavis -- Allergan's AGN.N generics business -- last year.

A loss of confidence in the company’s management have led to a nearly 50 percent drop in Teva’s shares since Aug. 3, while losses are about 75 percent since the start of 2016.

Investors say Teva paid too much for Actavis, prompting Chief Executive Erz Vigodman’s resignation in February and his temporary replacement by Chairman Yitzhak Peterburg, while Chief Financial Officer Eyal Desheh resigned at the end of June, again with only an interim stand-in.

“People have lost faith in Teva not for what happened, but we don’t see where its going,” Eldad Tamir, head of the Tamir Fishman Investment House, said.


In addition to seeking partners, Teva is responding by speeding up plans to divest non-core assets, the sources said, with long-term decisions including a possible break-up into two companies, generics and specialty drugs, only likely to be discussed after it fills its leadership vacuum.

Morgan Stanley and Bank of America have been asked to find buyers for Teva’s women’s health business and European oncology and pain unit, respectively.

Industry players including U.S. generic drugmaker Mylan MYL.O, German healthcare group Fresenius FMEG.DE and Indian drug firm Intas Pharmaceuticals INTA.NS are all carrying out due diligence on the assets, which could be worth about $2 billion combined, the sources said.

A source familiar with the divestments said that India’s Intas, which last year bought the generics business of Actavis in the UK and Ireland from Teva, is now bidding for specific assets within the women’s health unit, adding Teva is open to a break-up to speed up the sale.

This means the business could be sold in two or three chunks with its U.S. and international operations being chopped and some products like contraceptive drugs Plan B and Paragard being carved out and sold separately, the sources said.

The oncology business could also be broken up as industry players are mainly interested in pure cancer drugs while pain treatment medicine, which is being offered as part of the same deal, is seen as less attractive, the sources said.

The prospect of a piecemeal deal has drawn interest from private equity funds including Advent and TPG, the sources said.

Fresenius, Mylan and Advent declined to comment while Intas Advent and TPG were not immediately available for comment.

Teva is also considering options for its respiratory treatments business as part of a review of its entire portfolio, the sources said.

It recently decided to part ways with Iceland-based Medis, a supplier of development work to third-party drugmakers, which one source said could fetch about $500 million.

Some banks have suggested a possible sale of PGT Healthcare, a consumer care products joint venture with Procter & Gamble PG.N, but Teva's spokeswoman Bradley said this remains core.


Some shareholders have called on Teva to either split into two or sell off its generics business completely.

Pressure is mounting on the U.S. generic drug industry because pharmacy groups, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc WMT.N and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc WBA.O, are wielding more leverage when buying such drugs.

“Teva should get out of generics. It means splitting the company of course, selling the generics in pieces and focusing on specialty drugs,” Benny Landa, an entrepreneur who in 2014 led an investor bid to shake up Teva’s board, said.

Teva should become more like research-focused Novartis NOVM.S and its generics unit Sandoz, which are run as two separate firms, he added.

But such changes could be slowed by Teva’s articles of association. These were designed to prevent a hostile takeover and include provisions that limit the number of board members to be replaced per year to a third of all seats.

Teva’s problems also stem in large part from its specialty business. Its blockbuster multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone had contributed much of Teva’s revenue and profit, but its patent has run out and now is facing generic competition.

Teva had no other drugs to take its place, although it has a pipeline of 21 specialty medicines for migraine, Huntington’s Disease, pain, respiratory and neurology in various stages of development, from early stage clinical trials to drugs already registered and awaiting regulatory approval.

Reporting by Steven Scheer; editing by Alexander Smith