Don't expect GSK to spin off ViiV anytime soon, R&D chief says

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) may have sequestered its HIV drugs and development in a joint venture with Pfizer ($PFE), ViiV Healthcare. But that doesn't mean the U.K.-based drugmaker intends to spin off the business. Not now, at least.

"ViiV exists as a standalone company of which we are majority shareholders," GSK president of pharma R&D, Patrick Vallance, told Bloomberg. Handing over all its HIV work to ViiV, Valance said, has "provided a huge focus around the HIV space, and it's been an interesting lesson for GSK about how to get that sort of focus."

So, no plans for a spinoff? "[N]ot at the moment," Vallance told the news service.

Created in 2009 with Pfizer, ViiV is now a three-way partnership, with 76.5% in Glaxo's hands and 13.5% in Pfizer's. The remaining 10% is held by the Japanese drugmaker Shionogi, which agreed to sell rights to co-developed HIV treatments to ViiV. Glaxo could gain another 1.8% if its experimental drug dolutegravir, wins approval in the U.S. and Europe. ViiV filed its new-drug apps in those markets last month.

Pharma executives have fielded an increasing number of spinoff questions lately. Pfizer is in the midst of a spinoff of its animal health unit, dubbed Zoetis, and Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) spun off its pharma business as AbbVie ($ABBV) on New Year's Day. Analysts have called out Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) as another candidate for spinning off units, but the diversified company says it prefers to stay that way.

In ViiV's case, analysts have been expecting an eventual spinoff ever since the venture was born. Glaxo CEO Andrew Witty has said he's "open-minded" about a spinoff.

- read the Bloomberg piece