Yesterday’s news that GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK) (NYSE: GSK.US) had sold Ribena and Lucozade to Japanese drinks giant Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd was bound to make headlines, as journalists picked up on the sale of yet more British food and drink brands to foreign companies.
Personally, I’m more interested in Glaxo’s prospects as a pharmaceutical business, and I was pleased with the terms of the deal. The £1.35bn price tag is equivalent to 2.6 years’ sales, and is probably 10-15 times the annual profits generated by the drinks.
Despite this, the deal wasn’t enough to move Glaxo’s share price, which has fallen by 5% since June, thanks to two separate problems faced by the company. Sceptics are calling Glaxo a sell, but I reckon these two problems are simply a good buying opportunity.
China is expected to become the world’s second-largest market for pharmaceutical firms over the next decade. Its population of 1.3bn is enjoying rising incomes and a move to urbanised living, both of which will increase access to, and demand for, western-style healthcare.
Glaxo saw the opportunity in China, but if current allegations that the firm funded up to £320m of bribes to Chinese doctors are proved to be true, it appears to have grasped at it rather too eagerly.
Various media reports are suggesting that Glaxo may now withdraw from China to avoid a hefty fine, and allegations of corporate bribery, but I think this is simply a negotiating tactic. I don’t think that a withdrawal is in the interests of Glaxo or of the Chinese authorities, and expect a settlement.
As I write, Glaxo’s share price is down by around 3% on this morning’s opening price. The reason for this is that the US Food and Drugs Administration has unexpectedly issued guidance suggesting that it will licence generic replacements for Glaxo’s inhaler drug, Advair, which has global annual sales of $8bn.
Advair’s active ingredients are already out of patent, but the inhaler device with which it is delivered is protected until 2016, after which it now appears that Advair sales may fall, as cheaper generic competitors enter the market.
However, this needs to be seen in context. Glaxo’s product pipeline is seen by analysts as being much healthier than that of its UK peer AstraZeneca, and it has two full years before any generic replacements for Advair can hit the market.
Glaxo’s 4.7% yield and growth potential make it a buy for me, and it’s worth noting that GlaxoSmithKline is also one of the eight biggest holdings of top UK fund manager Neil Woodford.
Mr. Woodford’s funds have delivered outstanding returns for his investors — if you’d invested £10,000 into Mr Woodford’s High Income fund in 1988, it would have been worth £193,000 at the end of 2012 — a 1,830% increase!
> Roland owns shares in GlaxoSmithKline but does not own shares in any of the other companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has recommended GlaxoSmithKline.
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