GlaxoSmithKline Plc will carve out its consumer unit via a spinoff and cut its dividend by about 30% as Chief Executive Officer Emma Walmsley seeks to revive the pharmaceutical giant’s lagging drug business.
The U.K. company will list the unit in mid-2022 on the London Stock Exchange, Glaxo said Wednesday before a key investor meeting. The company will keep as much as 20% of the consumer-health business as a short-term investment, which it could then sell to strengthen the balance sheet.
The moves, part of a strategy to sharpen the company’s focus on drugs for cancer, HIV and other diseases, give investors clarity after Glaxo in 2018 opted to combine its consumer unit with Pfizer Inc.’s and list it as a separate business. Scrutiny of the plan has increased after it emerged in April that Elliott Management Corp., the U.S. investor known as an agitator for change, had taken a substantial stake in the company.
Glaxo is under pressure to turn the business around after languishing in recent years behind peers such as AstraZeneca Plc on pipeline development and market value.
“I am very aware that GSK shares have underperformed for a long period,” Walmsley said on a call with reporters.
This plan should remedy that, she said. Glaxo’s chief also dismissed any concerns of the spinoff leaving the company more vulnerable to a takeover, adding that it will look for deals over the coming years to expand and help rebuild the pipeline.
The dividend cut to 55 pence in 2022 — an aggregate number that includes some contribution from the consumer business — marks the first drop in Glaxo’s annual payout in 20 years. The payment will be 45 pence in 2023 after the split.
Over the next five years, “New GSK” — the biopharmaceutical and vaccines business that will be left after the spinoff — expects to deliver annual sales growth and adjusted operating profit growth of more than 5% and more than 10%, respectively. Glaxo also said it aims to deliver sales of more than 33 billion pounds ($46 billion) by 2031.
In forgoing an initial public offering for the consumer arm, Glaxo has shielded shareholders from the risk of earnings dilution while passing up an opportunity to raise capital.
Walmsley has faced questions in recent months over whether she is the right leader for the new company. The CEO, who isn’t a scientist and has a background on the consumer side, played down those concerns, saying she intends to carry on in the top job. She also pointed to her management bench, many of whom are top scientists.
“I am a change agent, I am a business leader, and I am very excited about the new plans,” she said.