GSK raises $1.1 billion from Haleon stake sale

(Reuters) -British drugmaker GSK on Friday said it raised 885.6 million pounds ($1.08 billion) from a discounted stake sale in Haleon, cutting its shareholding to 7.4% in the world’s largest standalone consumer healthcare firm.

GSK had earlier said that the Haleon spin-off and subsequent stake sales will allow the company to sharpen its focus on vaccines and infectious diseases and also fund deals to bolster a lacklustre drug pipeline.

The British drugmaker has lagged rivals in recent years putting CEO Emma Walmsley under pressure as it continues to pump money into the costly U.S. litigation over discontinued heartburn drug Zantac.

The sale of 270 million shares at 328 pence apiece, represented a discount of about 2.5% to Haleon’s last close of 336.25 pence on Thursday.

Shares in Haleon were down 1.2% while GSK was marginally up 0.4% at 0800 GMT.

GSK, which will remain the second largest shareholder in the Sensodyne toothpaste-maker, in May sold 240 million shares in Haleon to raise about 804 million pounds, and lowered its stake to 10.3% from 12.9% it initially retained in the business.

GSK currently trades at the equivalent of around 9.7 times expected earnings over the next 12 months, according to LSEG data. That’s below the 16 and above level for peer AstraZeneca and the FTSE global pharmaceutical index.

Haleon was formed in 2019 through a merger of GSK and Pfizer’s consumer healthcare businesses. It was spun out and listed on the London Stock Exchange in July 2022.

Pfizer, which holds a 32% stake in Haleon, said in May it plans to cut its ownership in a “slow and methodical” manner within months.

The British drugmaker and Pfizer have agreed to not sell any further Haleon shares for 60 days from the settlement of placing.

($1 = 0.8216 pounds)

(Reporting by Prerna Bedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Sonia Cheema and Elaine Hardcastle)