Valeant, searching for cash, nears $2B sale of its Bausch & Lomb surgery business

Valeant
Valeant built up a mountain of debt, $29 billion so far, as it bought up company after company.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals, on a mission to raise cash and pay down debt, is in talks to sell its Bausch & Lomb eye surgery business to Germany-based Carl Zeiss Meditec, Finanzen reported, citing Bloomberg.

The deal could be worth $2 billion for the drugmaker, which has been struggling under a debt burden—and a laundry list of other self-inflicted problems—for almost two years.

Valeant has been shopping various assets, promising to raise $8 billion, but it’s had a tough time finding buyers for some of them. A potential $10 billion deal to sell its big gastrointestinal drug unit, Salix, to Takeda, for example, fell apart in November.

Word of Valeant’s attempt to sell the Bausch & Lomb unit emerged the same month. Zeiss was among the rumored buyers at the time, along with Allergan, which has a substantial eye business of its own, and the private equity firm TPG.

The Zeiss talks are at an early stage now, Bloomberg’s sources say, and may still fall apart. Other bidders may still be interested, too.

Valeant built up a mountain of debt, some $29 billion at last count, as it bought up company after company to grow sales and gin up profits with subsequent cost-cutting. That growth-by-M&A model relied partly on its ability to hike prices on the older meds it acquired in its buyouts, and that’s an ability since compromised by a firestorm of drug-pricing criticism.

That scrutiny was, of course, fueled by Valeant itself, after triple-digit hikes on some of its meds went public. The company quickly joined Turing Pharmaceuticals and its ex-CEO Martin Shkreli in the lineup of publicly reviled price-hike perpetrators.

RELATED: Troubled Valeant unloads Dendreon, skin care brands for $2.1B in turnaround cash

Valeant soon faced federal investigations, its executives were forced to defend themselves on Capitol Hill, and a management shakeup saw ex-CEO Michael Pearson to the door. Its shares went into a nosedive and still trade at a fraction of their previous highs. A tiny fraction, in fact: From a high of more than $257 in July 2015, Valeant shares have plummeted to $12.64 as of Monday’s close.

Valeant has succeeded in offloading a few assets: In January, it sold Dendreon Pharmaceuticals to the Chinese drugmaker Sanpower for $820 million and some skin care brands to L’Oreal for about $1.3 billion. But a sale of its Australian subsidiary iNova hit a snag in April when bids came in around $900 million, lower than Valeant had expected.