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The Editors blog

An inside look at what’s happening within the pharma industry and across the PMGroup from the PMLiVE editorial team

GSK and Novartis asset swap: a tale of two companies

Firms complete multi-billion dollar exchange ofoncology, vaccines and consumer health interests

GSK Novartis asset swap dealThis month GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis finalised their unprecedented decision to swap $20bn worth of assets.

At first glance, it appears that GSK has got the best outcome: it gains $16bn from Novartis upfront, and pays the firm $7.1bn for its vaccine business (minus influenza products) and gains a joint share in a new OTC and consumer business.

GSK will now become number one in vaccines and consumer health and gains 12,000 employees from Novartis, whereas 2,000 of its staff will be moving over from GSK Oncology to the Swiss firm.

And the vast majority of the net gain it will get from the swap, which is just shy of $9bn, will go to its shareholders in a buyback scheme.

It is also getting some good products: Novartis' vaccine unit grew 8% last year to reach $1.5bn, boosted by sales of the new (and only) meningitis B vaccine Bexsero, which is set to be used by governments around the world for inoculation programmes.

“This transaction represents a major step forward for GSK,” said the firm's CEO Sir Andrew Witty.

Meanwhile, Novartis will gain nearly all of GSK's cancer drugs, excluding therapeutic vaccines.

This could be a major coup for the Swiss firm, even though GSK's entire oncology franchise made just £1.2bn ($1.8bn) last year. Considering that Roche's oncology drug Avastin (bevacizumab) makes more than $7bn a year, this is not a major loss for GSK at the moment.

Short term, GSK definitely wins out. But longer term, Novartis will likely be the clear victor in this deal.

Oncology is a large growth area and while its portfolio is small now, Novartis' drugs - including kidney cancer drug Votrient and melanoma treatments Mekinist and Tafinlar - are all set to be leaders in their field and major blockbusters. Sales of GSK's oncology platform also jumped by 33% in 2014.

Novartis already has a large oncology presence and knows how to work the sales field in both big and emerging markets so can make the most of its new products.

And with GSK's assets, it will now have 22 cancer medicines, as well as options on GSK's oncology R&D pipeline, there by shoring itself up for future growth.

GSK must also pay Novartis up to $1.5bn if its melanoma drugs fail to reach certain sales milestones.

Its vaccine business grew overall last year, but for two quarters its sales did drop, and Bexsero is seeing resistance in key markets, such as the UK, where the government is questioning its price.

Vaccines are steady growers, but do not create the sort of increase that come from top oncology products. Consumer health suffers from the same problem, and has left many analysts questioning why GSK would want to get rid of cancer when many in big pharma are moving in that direction.

But GSK will not be funnelling the money from the deal back into R&D, but instead to shareholders to help appease nervy investors after a rocky two years for the firm - two years that have seen multi-billion dollar fines, scandals in key emerging markets such as China, as well as falling sales nearly every quarter since 2013.

Meanwhile, Novartis' market value is nearly double that of GSK and it is set to become the number one pharma firm in terms of medicine sales by the end of the decade.

“The completion of the GSK transactions focuses Novartis, and further establishes our leading positions in key growing business segments,” said Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis.

The deal neatly sums up the two very different positions of these companies: GSK's rough two years means it can only afford to think short term, whereas Novartis is free to look much further down the road.

GSK Novartis asset swap deal

Full-size version of PMLiVE's GSK-Novartis asset swap infographic 

Article by
Ben Adams

is PMGroup editor

13th March 2015

From: Research, Sales

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