April 30, 2018 / 11:28 AM / 24 days ago

UPDATE 4-Allergan CEO opposes fundamental shift in strategy, shares fall

* Medical aesthetics unit’s Q1 revenue rises 30 pct

* Restasis sales fall 17.2 percent

* Raises adjusted earnings forecast (Adds analyst comment, updates stock price)

By Michael Erman and Manas Mishra

April 30 (Reuters) - Allergan Plc’s chief executive on Monday said he was opposed to fundamental changes to the drug company’s business strategy, even as its board considers drastic moves like splitting the company, selling off assets or doing deals to turn around a steep drop in its share price.

Botox maker Allergan’s shares fell 4.2 percent to $155.16 in late-morning trading, and are down more than a third over the last year.

The company announced a strategic review of its business earlier this year. CEO Brent Saunders said in March the declining stock price required the company to look at all options “with a sense of urgency.”

Allergan has hired multiple advisers, Saunders said on a Monday conference call following the company’s quarterly earnings. It is considering five options: deploying capital to buy back shares, doing divestitures, splitting the company, making acquisitions, or continuing to operate Allergan as is.

Investors hoping for a major shift in strategy may be disappointed.

“Running the company in large part as it exists today is not only an option, but also the baseline against which all options need to be considered,” Saunders said on the call, noting that his preliminary view was that a fundamental shift was unnecessary. “We’re not going to execute an activity that doesn’t recognize the full inherent value of our assets at Allergan.”

Saunders’ comments on the conference call “add risk that a ‘do nothing’ option or (the) resumption of bolt-on deals could be the answer” for Allergan, RBC Capital Markets analyst Randall Stanicky said in a research note. “We would expect push-back from investors if either were the case.”

Large, transformational deals certainly seem off the table.

Earlier this month, Allergan confirmed it was considering a bid for rare disease drug maker Shire Plc after Reuters reported on its interest. However, the company put out a second statement hours later stating it did not intend to make an offer.

But Saunders said in an interview that these kinds of deals are a “very low priority and a very unlikely outcome” of the review.

BETTER-THAN-EXPECTED EARNINGS

Allergan reported a better-than-expected first quarter profit and raised its full-year earnings forecast, driven by higher sales of its medical aesthetics products including blockbuster wrinkle treatment Botox.

Sales of Botox, its best selling drug, jumped 14.5 percent to $817.3 million in the quarter.

The company’s aesthetics unit posted a near 30 percent jump in sales.

U.S. Sales of Allergan’s eye drug, Restasis, which is expected to face competition from cheaper drugs, fell 17.2 percent.

The company now expects 2018 adjusted earnings of $15.65 to $16.25 per share, slightly above its previous forecast.

Its net loss was $332.5 million, or 99 cents per share, narrowing from a $2.63 billion loss, or $7.86 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, Allergan reported a profit of $3.74 per share, topping analysts’ average expectation of $3.36, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total revenue rose 2.8 percent to $3.67 billion, topping analysts’ average estimate of $3.59 billion. (Reporting by Michael Erman in New York and Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva, Sai Sachin Ravikumar and David Gregorio)

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