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Rediff News  All News  » Business » Wockhardt-Abbott deal aborted

Wockhardt-Abbott deal aborted

April 02, 2010 03:04 IST

Foreign lenders to Wockhardt have succeeded in stalling the debt-ridden pharmaceutical company's attempts to sell its nutrition business to Abbott Laboratories.

The move is, however, unlikely to affect the debt restructuring undertaken by Indian lenders.

In a statement issued this morning, Wockhardt said the two companies terminated the sale agreement signed last July. In a separate statement, Abbott said the deal had to be called off as Wockhardt was unable to resolve its debt restructuring issues with some of its lenders.

A group of investors -- represented by QVT Financial -- had approached the Bombay High Court four months ago, demanding winding up of Wockhardt as the company did not pay its outstanding Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds dues.The company had to repay FCCBs worth $140 million, due for redemption last October.

As part of the deal, Abbott was to buy infant food brands such as Farex, Dexolac and Nusobee, along with Protienex, which is an adult food supplement. In addition, manufacturing facilities located in Lalru and Jagraon, Carol Info Services and certain Wockhardt subsidiaries and group companies were part of the proposed acquisition.

Though the deal has been called off, Indian lenders, who are part of the corporate debt restructuring unit, said implementation of Wockhardt's loan recast package will not be impacted. As part of the restructuring, lenders had agreed to provide additional debt of Rs 516 crore, while a facility of another Rs 255 crore has been sanctioned.

They had, however, attached a rider on sale of non-core assets and repayment of Rs 790 crore debt within six years. Wockhardt has already mobilised close to Rs 300 crore from sale of its loss-making German subsidiary, Esparma, and the animal health division. Further, the promoters, the Khorakiwala family, have generated Rs 909 crore through the sale of 10 hospitals to Fortis.

At the end of December, Wockhardt's total debt was estimated at Rs 3,400 crore. The company reported a loss of Rs 184 crore during the quarter-ended December 2009.

While a Wockhardt spokesperson declined to comment, sources close to the development said the Indian company was not keen to pursue the deal with Abbott, as liquidity had improved in recent months.

"The situation has changed now and their nutrition business is annually growing at over 15-20 per cent. They can find a new buyer who will offer better valuations," said a source.

An executive at a bank that has extended loans to Wockhardt said the deal with Abbott was terminated as the transaction could not be completed within the agreed time frame.

The source added that Wockhardt could also resurrect the deal with Abbott once it settles the issue with the bondholders. The Bombay High Court is expected to pronounce its decision on the winding-up petition filed by FCCB holders anytime as the hearings are already over.

"Abbott views India as an important growth market for nutrition and we will continue to explore strategies to advance our business there. We are continuing to make investments in all aspects of our operations in India and plan to introduce many of our global nutrition products to Indian consumers", Abbott spokesperson Scott Stoffel said in an e-mailed response to a questionnaire from Business Standard.

QVT officials could not be contacted for comments.

Wockhardt's share price rose by 3.32 per cent to close at Rs 143.30 on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

BS Reporters in Mumbai