Three directors of Galen, the Northern Irish pharmaceuticals group, are to net £100m from the sale of part of their shareholdings.
The three said they were selling down to increase the number of shares available to be publicly traded. At the same time, the group launched a £200m fund-raising to help ready itself for more acquisitions in the US.
John King, the chairman, and Allen McClay, the president, are each expected to make about £40m from the sales. Geoffrey Elliott, the finance director, and a charitable trust connected with Mr McClay are selling about £10m each.
Mr Elliott said recent acquisitions, including the £270m purchase of Warner Chilcott last year, meant that 70 per cent of revenues now come from the US, where there was increasing demand for shares from investors.
"It is not something that anybody particularly wanted to do, but we have been under a good deal of pressure since the flotation, and we have been obliged to increase liquidity, particularly in the US, where investors tend to go for larger amounts of shares."
Asked whether he was selling his shares with a heavy heart, Mr Elliott replied: "Heavy-ish."
The directors, who own 40 per cent of the £1.2bn company, will be reduced to 31 per cent after the fund-raising and share sales. The move was welcomed by analysts, but the stock fell 52.5p to 772.5p as Galen's broker, Merrill Lynch, launched a book-building exercise.
Existing shareholders have pre-emption rights on the £200m open offer, while the £100m being sold by the three directors will be offered internationally. The deal's price is expected to be fixed on 26 July, and the directors will be barred from selling more stock for the following six months.
Mr King refused to rule out further share sales after that lock-up expired. "We have sold, on average, once a year, and these sales will take our holding down to around 31 per cent. It is part of the process of becoming a liquid public company."
Galen shares were floated at 150p in 1997 and touched 975p earlier this year. The company recently developed an intra-vaginal ring for the delivery of hormone replacement drugs.
The company also announced yesterday that it had beefed up its female healthcare range with the £67m purchase of Estracea tablets, an estrogen replacement therapy, from Bristol-Myers Squibb. The acquisition was paid for out of Galen's £100m debt facility, which could be paid back after the fund-raising, and the company said it will be earnings enhancing next year.
Sales of Estracea tablets were £26.7m last year.
Ian Hunter, pharmaceuticals analyst at Goodbody Stockbrokers in Dublin, said the purchase was a good fit because Galen already owns the Estracea cream.
"In the US especially, Estracea is a well-known name, but because they did not own the tablet form, they haven't been able to use it indiscriminately," he said. "This means they can use the brand across all their similar products."
The company said there were more acquisitions to come. "We have the sales and marketing capability in the US," said Mr Elliott, "and we believe we can put a couple more products into that sales force without increasing the overheads."
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