Battered Valeant Stock Drops a Further 50% After Weak Guidance

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valeant-pharmaceuticals-international-image2In recent months, Valeant has come to be seen as an egregious example of profiteering in the drug industry: Its executives have been called to testify before Congress, and Hillary Clinton has mentioned Valeant by name in a campaign ad.

Valeant’s practice of buying old drugs and sharply raising their prices is being investigated by federal authorities, as is its relationship to a mail-order pharmacy, Philidor, which it used to help get around efforts by pharmacies and insurance companies to substitute cheaper generics for some of the company’s costly drugs. Valeant has since cut its ties to Philidor.

On Tuesday, the company said it would discontinue buying drugs and raising their prices. “We’re no longer in the market for underpriced assets,” Mr. Pearson said.

The company also lowered its guidance, saying it now expected revenue of $11 billion to $11.2 billion in 2016, compared with its previous estimate of $12.5 billion to $12.7 billion. The company also said its adjusted earnings per share for the year would be $9.50 to $10.50, instead of the previously expected $13.25 to $13.75.

It also said it lost $336.4 million in the final quarter of 2015; the numbers it released had not been audited and Valeant did not provide comparable figures from 2014.

William Ackman’s hedge fund Pershing Capital owns a large stake in Valeant.

Mr. Pearson said that a continuing inquiry into Valeant’s accounting practices by an ad hoc board committee was preventing the company from filing its annual financial statement on time.

Mr. Pearson said he hoped the company could file its annual financial statement by April, but “I can’t commit to that.” Failing to do so could mean that debtors would be able to require Valeant to pay them back faster and limit their future borrowing, although they could grant waivers, which the company said it would seek.

The company was due to file the report at the end of February and now has until the end of April.

When companies seek waivers from banks, the banks typically require a payment to grant the waiver, which could be as much as 1 percent of the company’s bank debt, said Vicki Bryan, a senior analyst at Gimme Credit.

The cascade of negative news seemed to have transformed even some of Valeant’s most supportive analysts into skeptics, as they pelted Mr. Pearson with questions, challenging the company’s financial statements and even, at one point, asking if his comments could be trusted.

Given the sharply lowered financial guidance, “How did so much change so quickly with the business?” asked Chris Schott, an analyst with J. P. Morgan who has an overweight rating on the stock, along with a price target of more than $275.

Financial Adviser on Valeant’s Plunge

“They're better off dead than alive,” said Joshua M. Brown, a financial adviser at Ritholtz Wealth Management, on the drug maker's debt load.

Another analyst with a buy rating, Shibani Malhotra of Nomura, asked: “How can we be confident in what you’re saying today, given that you were positive in December and January?”

“We have to do a better job,” Mr. Pearson responded. “We’ve had some underperforming businesses. That’s on us. That’s totally on us.”

Not everyone was as skeptical: William A. Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management, the company’s second-largest shareholder and a major Valeant booster, stood by his investment on Tuesday, noting that Pershing’s vice chairman recently joined Valeant’s board.

“We are going to take a much more proactive role at the company to protect and maximize the value of our investment,” he said in a note to investors Tuesday. “We continue to believe that the value of the underlying business franchises that comprise Valeant are worth multiples of the current market price.”

Mr. Pearson said Valeant would focus on paying down its debt, hold off making major acquisitions and work on restoring its credibility. He also said the company was considering selling some nonessential assets, but he declined to be specific.

“It’s a bit of a starting-over point at this point, for me and the company,” Mr. Pearson said. “And clearly if we don’t deliver, then again that’s on me.”

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