- Allergan CEO Brent Saunders acknowledged mounting investor frustration with his company's direction, pledging Tuesday "decisive action" from a board motivated to act with urgency.
- "The board is on it. The board is engaged," said Saunders, who is also Allergan's chairman, on an earnings call. "Stay tuned."
- Yet the executive provided few specifics for a turnaround plan, as revenues for the first three months of 2019 declined 2% from the same period a year ago. The pharma's stock dropped nearly 5% Tuesday morning.
While analysts pressed Saunders with questions on M&A, spin-offs and pipeline shake-ups, the executive provided little to no specifics on what the future will bring for Allergan.
And the CEO's promise of urgent action carries a sense of déjà vu, as he made the same vow a year ago.
On the first quarter earnings call for 2018, Saunders said the business was considering a wide range of options and that all options were on the table. A year later, he again told investors "everything is on the table."
Last time around, a strategic review led the Irish pharma to seek sales for its women's health and infectious disease units. A year later, neither unit has been sold and Saunders said in January the company is no longer seeking to sell the women's health business.
Pipeline setbacks and questionable M&A decisions, meanwhile, have sunk Allergan's stock more than 50% over the past four years.
Most recently, the focus of investor frustration is on clinical failures for the experimental depression drug rapastinel.
Allergan acquired the drug through its $560 million purchase of Naurex in 2015. After advancing rapastinel into Phase 3 testing, the company set blockbuster sales expectations for the drug.
In March of this year, the company disclosed the drug failed in multiple late-stage depression studies. Along with its first quarter earnings, Allergan also revealed it had taken a $2.5 billion impairment charge over the drug, reflecting the removal of anticipated future cash flows.
Even so, the company isn't done with rapastinel. Two studies remain ongoing, testing the drug in suicidality and as a monotherapy for major depressive disorder. The company plans to run an interim futility analysis in the second half of this year to determine if those are worth continuing.
Setbacks such as rapastinel's have caused simmering investor discontent to boil up this year. Pressured by a challenge from activist investor Appaloosa, Allergan management was forced to take the defensive in staving off the hedge fund's proposal for splitting the CEO and chairman roles.
While a majority of shareholders rejected that plan last week, 38% of voters still backed the split, leading Saunders to directly acknowledge frustration with Allergan's stock performance on Tuesday's earnings call.
"I share that frustration. I understand that frustration," he said. "I am a very large shareholder relative to my own personal holdings."
While that didn't appear to placate investors Tuesday, as Allergan shares dropped again, shareholders are left to wonder how much longer they will need to stay tuned for the promised turnaround.