By Noor Zainab Hussain and Pushkala Aripaka
(Reuters) – Britain’s Reckitt Benckiser (L:) has agreed to pay up to $1.4 billion to resolve all U.S. federal investigations into the sales and marketing of an opioid addiction treatment by its former prescription pharmaceuticals business Indivior (L:).
While the settlement is significantly higher than the $400 million that the consumer goods group had set aside to cover the cost of the investigations, analysts said it lifted a cloud that has been hanging over the company for years.
Reckitt shares rose 2% in early Thursday trading.
The maker of Strepsils throat sweets, Mucinex cold medicine and Lysol cleaners, said it had reached agreements with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to resolve the investigation into a business that was wholly demerged from the company in 2014.
The U.S. Justice Department indicted Indivior and a subsidiary in April on charges they engaged in an illegal scheme to boost prescriptions of the film version of its opioid addiction treatment Suboxone.
The indictment said the scheme began before Indivior was spun out of RB, although RB was not charged.
“While RB has acted lawfully at all times and expressly denies all allegations that it engaged in any wrongful conduct, after careful consideration, the board of RB determined that the agreement is in the best interests of the company and its shareholders,” RB said in a statement.
It said the agreement avoided the costs, uncertainty and distraction associated with continued investigations, litigation and the potential for an indictment at a time of significant change for the company, which is implementing a restructuring plan and handing over to a new chief executive.
“$1.4 billion is materially larger than the $400 million RB had previously provisioned and represents about 2% of its market cap. On the other hand, this settlement removes some uncertainty from the investment case,” Credit Suisse (SIX:) analyst Alan Erskine said.
RB said it would increase its provision related to the investigations to $1.5 billion to cover both the cost of the settlement and “any remaining litigation exposures.”
Separately on Thursday, Indivior raised its full-year profit and revenue guidance after Suboxone lost market share at a lower pace than expected, sending its shares 35% higher.
Suboxone film is used by people recovering from opioid dependency and is placed by patients under their tongue or inside their cheek once a day to suppress cravings. It accounts for about 80% of Indivior’s revenue.
Indivior has benefited from a U.S. drive to combat opioid addiction, which President Donald Trump has declared a public health emergency.
RB, meanwhile, is battling to regain investor confidence after a string of setbacks including a safety scandal in South Korea, a failed product launch and a cyber attack.
Last month, it picked PepsiCo (O:) executive Laxman Narasimhan as its next CEO.
RB’s outgoing boss Rakesh Kapoor launched a plan to split the group into two business units – one for health and one for hygiene and home products – under the same parent company.
RB said the settlement would be funded through existing borrowing facilities and cash generation.
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