Given everything that happened, Valeant Pharmaceuticals Intl Inc. (TSX:VRX)(NYSE:VRX) should refer to February 29, 2016 as “Black Monday.” Below is a timeline of the day’s events.
9:30 am: Valeant shares open at $76.52, down more than 5% from Friday’s close. The plunge is due to the company’s decision to delay its fourth-quarter earnings release and withdraw its 2016 guidance, both of which were announced in a press release the night before.
In the press release, Valeant also announced the return of Michael Pearson to the CEO position after nine weeks recovering from pneumonia and other health complications. This development received mixed reactions, which is not surprising given that Mr. Pearson is the face of Valeant’s rise as well as its recent fall.
Finally, the press release stated that Actavis has challenged the validity of Valeant’s patents on Xifaxan, which was the crown jewel of the Salix Pharmaceuticals acquisition. But this is likely a non-event; analysts generally expect Valeant’s Xifaxan patents to hold.
10:30 am: Bloomberg reports that Valeant has scheduled a conference call with sell-side analysts. This call was meant to be only for a select group of analysts; Valeant VP of Investor Relations Laurie Little asked the analysts not to forward the email to anyone. The fact that the email was leaked should surprise no one.
11:26 am: Moody’s places Valeant’s bonds on review for potential downgrade.
Valeant currently has a Corporate Family Rating of Ba3, which is three notches below investment grade. Even this rating may now be too high. Moody’s cited “concerns that Valeant’s underlying operating performance is weaker than Moody’s previous expectations, potentially impeding the company’s deleveraging plans.” It’s difficult to blame the rating agency for these concerns.
11:51 am: CNBC biotech reporter Meg Tirrell tweets that Valeant has canceled its analyst call due to “media interest.”
According to The Globe and Mail, Ms. Little said that “this was never meant to be a formal call.” We still do not know what would have been said on the call.
12:31 pm: The Hillary Clinton campaign uploads new video advertisement targeting Valeant.
The 30-second video titled “Predatory” shows Mrs. Clinton at a January town hall event in Iowa, one in which she highlighted a local woman’s struggle with high drug prices. She then promised to go after Valeant, referencing the company by name. When Mrs. Clinton originally made these comments, Valeant shares fell by 9%.
The ad will be airing in Michigan and Kansas City markets.
3:34 pm: Valeant confirms that it is under investigation by the SEC.
The company had actually received notice of the investigation back in the fourth quarter, but did not disclose it at the time. Then on February 23, a small outfit called Probes Reporter said that the SEC may be investigating Valeant. Five days later, Probes confirmed that Valeant was indeed being investigated. Only when the company received numerous inquiries from media outlets did it acknowledge the investigation
4:30 pm: Valeant closes at $65.80, down 18.4% on the day, having fallen as low as $63.75. Both numbers are a long way down from the $263.81 high reached back in August.
6:08 pm: Bill Ackman reiterates his support for Valeant and Mr. Pearson in an exclusive interview with CNBC.
To summarize Mr. Ackman’s comments, he is delighted by Mr. Pearson’s return and expects much of the uncertainty over Valeant to be resolved in the next few weeks. Mr. Ackman also still has faith in Valeant’s core operations but believes the company’s PR efforts need improvement.
Depending on your point of view, either Mr. Ackman is sticking to his convictions, or he is refusing to admit a mistake. Time will tell.