Valeant looks to trim debt pile with $930 million iNova sale

(Reuters) - Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc VRX.TOVRX.N said on Thursday it would sell its iNova Pharmaceuticals business for $930 million, as Chief Executive Joseph Papa steps up efforts to slash the embattled Canadian drugmaker's enormous debt pile.

The company logo of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc is seen at its headquarters in Laval, Quebec May 19, 2015. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

Papa has narrowed Valeant’s focus to its dermatology, eye care and gastrointestinal businesses by pruning other assets to repay its debt, which ballooned to nearly $30 billion following a furious spate of deal-making under former CEO Mike Pearson.

“It’s not my goal to get the debt to zero,” Papa said in an interview. “The right place for our debt is somewhere ... in the range of $15 billion to $20 billion.”

In August, Valeant had pledged to cut debt by $5 billion by February next year through divestments and operational performance. Papa said on Thursday Valeant was well on pace to meet that target.

Pearson’s acquisition spree sent Valeant’s shares from around $20 to a high of over $250 in 2015, before the stock went into a tailspin as Valeant’s drug pricing strategy and ties to a specialty pharmacy came under increased political and regulatory scrutiny.

Valeant’s New York-listed shares were up 7.9 percent at $13.13 in morning trading on Thursday.

In January, Valeant agreed to sell its Dendreon cancer treatment business and three skincare brands for $2.12 billion. That deal is expected to close in the middle of this year, Papa said.

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Valeant was in talks to sell its Bausch & Lomb unit’s surgical products business. Its eye-surgery assets may be valued at about $2 billion in a sale, the report said.

Valeant was also exploring the sale of its Salix stomach-drug business and other assets, but talks with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd 4502.T had stalled over price disagreements, Reuters reported in November. Reports have said Salix could fetch Valeant as much as $10 billion.

The deal to buy iNova — which markets prescription and over-the-counter products focused on weight and pain management, cardiology and cough and cold — is expected to close in the second half of this year.

INova, bought by Valeant in 2011, will be sold to a company jointly owned by Pacific Equity Partners and Carlyle Group LP CG.O, Valeant said.

Goldman Sachs & Co was Valeant’s financial adviser, while Baker McKenzie provided legal counsel.

Reporting by Divya Grover in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Natalie Grover; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Sai Sachin Ravikumar