At this point you would be better off riding aboard the Titanic than holding Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) stock, at least according to short seller Andrew Left.
Left, whose firm Citron Research was the first to put a spotlight on accounting misconduct at the struggling Canadian drugmaker last fall, said in a phone interview with Real Money Wednesday that he's decided to once again go short Valeant, echoing his market-moving bear stance taken last year. (Left briefly took a long position in Valeant this spring, with some covered puts, but said he has decided to once again take on short positions.)
"I think it's obvious it's a zero now," Left said, emphasizing that the announcement of Sequoia Fund's decision to sell its remaining stake in the drugmaker tells everything. Sequoia was Valeant's second-largest shareholder, with about 20% of its stock, but announced in a letter to shareholders Tuesday that it is exiting all of its Valeant positions.
"They've sat down and they've seen and they've interviewed and they walked," Left said, noting that Sequoia has much more of an insider take into the company than the public. "The fact that they're selling tells everything."
Meanwhile, it was also revealed Wednesday that Valeant's former CEO, Michael Pearson, has dropped roughly 5 million shares of Valeant, the value of which is down more than 90% since last summer's highs.
It's already a sinking ship," Left added. "With the Titanic going down you can at least get on a life boat and get out with what you can."
Shares of Valeant began to plummet last fall after Citron first advocated that the U.S. Congress subpoena the drugmaker for so-called "price gouging" its customers on some of its drugs. Pearson has since apologized to a Congressional special committee for putting shareholder interests above patients, and Valeant has admitted to $58 million of improperly booked sales tied to a former partnership with mail-order pharmacy Philidor.
"Valeant s been able to game the system for a while," Left added. "We also know they've overpaid for a lot of companies."
But what's most taxing on Valeant has been the $31 billion debt load that it accumulated through snapping up drug companies and subsequently hiking drug prices on some acquired products. Now the debt appears unmanageable, with new management, including CEO Joseph Papa, saying asset sales will be necessary to cope with debt obligations.