Sun Pharma drops to 6-year low on report of another whistleblower complaint

Sun Pharma
Already struggling with a whistleblow case over alleged insider trading, Sun Pharma was hit with a second complaint. (Sun Pharma)

Just weeks after Sun Pharma’s stock was hit by whistleblower allegations of insider trading, a second complaint reportedly filed to Indian regulators sent the drugmaker’s shares tumbling to a new six-year low.

A whistleblower alleged in a 172-page complaint that dubious transactions amounting to more than Rs 5,800 crore ($816 million) took place between Sun Pharma distributor Aditya Medisales and Suraksha Realty, a firm controlled by Sun Pharma director Sudhir Valia, the financial news site Moneylife said. Valia is also Sun Pharma helmsman Dilip Shangvhi’s brother-in-law.

The same whistleblower involved in the first complaint also filed these latest allegations to India’s Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). That first complaint accused Sun of insider trading in its acquisition of Ranbaxy, Moneylife reported.

In a filing (PDF) to India's stock exchange Friday, Sun said it has not received the complaint, and therefore is “not privy to the contents” and couldn’t comment. That was not all of Sun’s response, though. In a letter (PDF) addressed to SEBI’s chairman, Ajay Tyagi, the Indian drugmaker asked the regulator to look into the case and the role media outlets have played.

Citing “a great asymmetry in the information” that leads to “intense speculation,” Sun said it is concerned that “certain entities/individuals are adopting unfair trade practices.” Seemingly launching a direct attack at Moneylife, Sun said its shareholders have been hurt by “unsubstantiated complaint/allegation against the company and mala fide campaign launched by certain media houses.”

In rebuttal, Moneylife said it has made the documents available to institutional investors “in the best traditions of transparency and public interest,” and also allowed brokerage firms and even a human rights organization access to the complaint.

RELATED: Mismanagement allegations send Sun Pharma stock tumbling: What we know so far

Questions about alleged lapses in Sun’s corporate governance first came to light last November, through a report by India’s news agency PTI that said SEBI might reopen an insider trading probe regarding Sun’s 2014 acquisition of Ranbaxy from Daiichi Sankyo, as well as how Sun raised money overseas.

Tyagi confirmed receipt of the first complaint but didn’t elaborate on whether a formal investigation is in sight.

Other concerns about Sun’s management practices were also raised by an analyst from Macquarie at the time. Both Valia and Aditya Medisales were separately targeted.

In one allegation, investors questioned why Valia-owned company Lakshdeep Investment & Finance was not classified as a Sun Pharma promoter. Sun explained it did that per legal advice and was seeking a second opinion.

As for Aditya Medisales, Sun’s domestic formulations business was routed through it. Sun said the business has been there for years but only recently became a related party. Even though the business structure was designed for tax reasons, Sun said it’s open to other options, including taking over the distribution work or buying the firm.

According to a separate disclosure Sun filed Friday on its shareholding structure, Valia and his wife together owned about 2% of Sun’s shares at the end of 2018, while Shanghvi and his wife (Valia’s sister) held nearly 10%. Aditya Medisales also had a 1.67% stake in Sun.

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