This Company Looks Better Broken Apart

If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.

Elan (NYSE: ELN  ) seems to be taking the old adage to heart. The drugmaker announced yesterday that it's thinking of parting ways with its drug delivery business. Still.

The company tried to sell Elan Drug Technologies (EDT) in 2008, but the weak capital market scuttled the idea. The new idea is to spin off EDT into a separate publicly listed company. Elan plans to make a final decision in the "coming months."

According to The Wall Street Journal, the drugmaker is planning on listing EDT in London and Dublin, but not a U.S. exchange like the current company. That could make for a bit of a paperwork headache for current Elan shareholders if the spinoff comes in the form of shares in EDT. Another possibility is an IPO of EDT in which Elan sells some or all of its stake in EDT, the way Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY  ) did with baby formula maker Mead Johnson Nutrition (NYSE: MJN  ) .

EDT brought in revenue of $276 million last year from manufacturing and sales royalties on drugs like Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE: JNJ  ) Invega Sustenna and Acorda Therapeutics' (Nasdaq: ACOR  ) Ampyra, which it helped develop. Elan BioNeurology, the remaining part of the company, would keep the Alzheimer's drugs including its partnership with Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) , and its multiple sclerosis drug, Tysabri, which it sells with Biogen Idec (Nasdaq: BIIB  ) .

The biggest question is where the cash and debt will go. At the end of last year, Elan had $843 million in cash and short-term investments and more than $1.5 billion in long-term debt. Elan is in a better position than it was a year ago, thanks to its deal with Johnson & Johnson, but that's still a lot of debt to divvy up. My guess is the company will saddle EDT with as much debt as it can service and leave most of the cash with the bioneurology segment to fund the company's pipeline.

Selling EDT to another company and paying off debt might be the best option for shareholders, but the company hasn't indicated it's going to do that. After all, it's always possible that the sum of the parts will be worth more than the whole, which is what management and the board seem to be going for. Investors in Abraxis BioScience made out well after it separated its drug development business from its generic-drug segment.

Until we have more information, investors will just have to sit and wait -- like they did the last time Elan looked to unload EDT.

Elan is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. The newsletter team is always on the hunt for hot drug stocks and other cutting-edge picks. See all of our latest discoveries with a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Pfizer is an Inside Value selection. Johnson & Johnson is an Income Investor selection, and Motley Fool Options recommended buying calls on the stock. The Fool lives and dies by its disclosure policy; separation is not possible.


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