Shares of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. (NYSE:VRX) plummeted Tuesday after the company reported sharply curtailed future earnings expectations following a turbulent several weeks.
Moving forward, Valeant said, it expects 2016 revenue of $11 billion to $11.2 billion, compared to previous guidance of $12.5 billion to $12.7 billion. In the fourth quarter of 2015, the unaudited results showed revenue of $2.8 billion, in line with consensus expectations.
Shares of Valeant opened down $15.54, or 22.5 percent, at $53.50. The stock was down nearly 50 percent year-to-date.
In the coming months, Valeant cited challenges arising from increasing pressures from marketplace participants on the company's traditional pricing model, centered on acquiring niche drugs and sharply hiking their costs — a strategy the drugmaker has vowed to phase out in coming years.
Chief Executive Michael Pearson, recently returned from a two-month sick leave, announced “the cancellation of almost all price increases,” following “more competitive pressure and response to our historic price increases.”
The past six months have been a roller-coaster ride for Valeant, which recently announced it was the subject of an ongoing Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, in addition to other legal probes. Questions into the company’s accounting practices arose in October following an explosive report from a short-seller, followed by a stream of damaging revelations about the company’s specialty pharmacy model.
In the aftermath of the ordeal, the company set up an ad hoc committee to review previous financial statements, two years of which have since been pulled. The guidance and earnings announced Tuesday were preliminary and unaudited, pending the completion of the committee review.
“The challenges of the past few months are not yet behind us and our goal for 2016 is to better balance our priorities across all of our constituencies — physicians, patients, employees, payors, debt holders and shareholders,” Pearson said. “Our business is not operating on all cylinders, but we and I are working to get it back on track.”
Valeant faced particular headwinds in dermatology products such as the $500-a-bottle foot cream Jublia, which had been shipped largely through the company’s embattled specialty pharmacy Philidor RX. Valeant shut down that business, which was virtually owned by the drugmaker, following allegations into questionable sales practices.
Valeant has since signed a deal with Walgreens to take over the distribution that had been flowing through Philidor. “Over 90 percent of the physicians who were using Philidor are now using Walgreens,” Pearson said. That shift, however, has come with 10 percent price decreases on the drugs involved and lower total profit margins.
And the new program hasn’t been without its hiccups. “We probably did not communicate the Walgreens channel as well as we should have,” Pearson said on the call, explaining that gastrointestinal drugs that had been routed through Philidor were not part of the deal, which came as a surprise to analysts on the call.
Other revenue hits at the tail end of 2015 included a pause in cost reductions and the weight of a stronger-than-expected dollar. The company did not discuss lingering questions into the balance between price hikes and organic demand in driving growth.
Valeant isn’t out of the woods yet. The company further delayed fully audited 2015 results, while drawing on its revolving debt line to pay off other obligations, moves that risked a default on the company's debt.
With $31 billion in overall borrowing outstanding, the pressure is on for Valeant to chart a new course. On the call, Pearson noted that Valeant might reverse course on some of its acquisitions to manage its debt. "You should expect there will be a series of noncore divestitures over the course of the year," Pearson said.
Wells Fargo analyst David Maris, whose critical report last month sent Valeant shares falling, advised investors to remain wary of the drugmaker’s stock as it “tries to get its arms around the issues” it's facing.