Modèle d’affaires hasardeux et gouvernance désastreuse à la société canadienne Valeant
Voici un article récemment publié dans The Economist, qui met en évidence les énormes faiblesses de la gouvernance corporative de Valeant, l’un des « fleurons » de l’industrie pharmaceutique canadienne.
Selon le magazine, il s’agit du plus désastreux constat d’échec d’une firme cotée à la bourse de New York depuis la faillite de Lehman Brothers en 2008 !
À part un modèle d’affaires déficient et douteux, quelles sont les leçons à tirer pour les conseils d’administration de sociétés publiques ?
Les auteurs insistent sur les problèmes de contrôle interne, la faiblesse notoire du conseil d’administration, les interventions opportunistes des actionnaires activistes, notamment Jeffrey Ubben de ValueAct et Bill Ackman de Pershing Square, qui détiennent quatre des douze sièges du conseil d’administration. À lui seul Pershing Square détient 9 % des actions et son président Bill Ackman vient de joindre le CA.
Un article paru hier dans Canadian Business montre encore plus clairement comment l’inefficacité du conseil d’administration est à l’origine des problèmes de Valeant (Why the trouble at Valeant starts with its board of directors).
Vous trouverez, ci-dessous, le paragraphe introductif de l’article paru dans The Economist.
Until recently, America hadn’t had a spectacular corporate disaster since Lehman Brothers in 2008. But Valeant, a Canadian but New York-listed drug firm, now meets all of the tests: a bad business model, accounting problems, acquisitions, debt, an oddly low tax rate, a weak board, credulous analysts, and managers with huge pay packets and a mentality of denial. The result has been a $75 billion loss for shareholders and, possibly, a default on $31 billion of debt.
Je vous invite à lire la suite de cet article, notamment les trois leçons que nous devrions en retirer.
Bonne lecture !
Valeant’s business model was buying other drug firms, cutting costs and yanking up prices. Since 2010 it has done $35 billion of deals, mainly financed by debt. At a time when Americans face stagnant living standards, a strategy based on squeezing customers was bound to encounter political hostility—“I’m going after them,” Hillary Clinton has vowed.
Valeant added to this mix a tendency towards evasiveness. In October investigative reporters revealed its murky relationship with a drugs dispensary, Philidor, which it consolidated into its accounts yet did not control. The relationship was severed but the Securities and Exchange Commission is still investigating. Federal prosecutors are also looking into various of the company’s practices. On Christmas Eve Michael Pearson, Valeant’s CEO and architect, went into hospital with pneumonia. On February 28th Mr Pearson (total pay awarded of $55m since 2012, according to Bloomberg) returned to work, welcomed back by the chairman for his “vision and execution”.
The facts that have emerged in March suggest that Mr Pearson should have been fired. Profit targets have been cut by 24% compared with October’s. The accounts will be restated and the filing of an annual report delayed. The results released on March 15th contain neither a full cash-flow statement nor a balance-sheet, but it appears that Valeant has been generating only just enough cash to pay its $1.6 billion interest bill this year. As suppliers and customers get wary, its cashflow may fall, leading to a default.
There are three lessons. First, boards matter: the managers should have been removed in October. Second, disasters happen in plain sight. Valeant issued $1.45 billion of shares in March 2015, when 90% of Wall Street analysts covering its shares rated them a “buy”. Yet as early as 2014 a rival firm, Allergan, had made an outspoken attack on Valeant’s finances, the thrust of which has been proved correct.
The final lesson is that “activist” investors, who aim to play a hands-on role at the firms that they invest in, have no monopoly on wisdom. Jeffrey Ubben of ValueAct and Bill Ackman of Pershing Square both own chunks of Valeant and have supported it. Mr Ackman is at present trying to consolidate America’s railway system. Mr Ubben is trying to shake up Rolls-Royce, a British aerospace firm. After Valeant, why should anyone listen to what they say?
Pour en connaître davantage sur la société Valeant et sur le rôle des administrateurs :