Johnson and Johnson in the news

One of my “core” holdings, Johnson and Johnson (ticker: JNJ), has been in the news A LOT more recently. And while I typically do not reach to news especially when I consider is “noise” as far as my long-term outlook of the business, when the news item has a significant impact on my strategy, it is worth bringing-up here and laying down my thoughts on the subject.

So late last week (12th of Nov, 2021), news broke out that JNJ is planning on splitting its consumer products business from its pharma and medical devices businesses and create two independent publicly traded companies.

The press-release on JNJ’s investor page states that the “new Johnson and Johnson” i.e. the business division containing the pharma and medical devices portfolios, will be headed by Joaquin Duato, current Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee, after Alex Gorsky, the current CEO, transitions over that role. Alex Gorsky would continue to serve as Executive Chairman. The new Consumer Products company (name TBD) will have a separate board of directors and executive leadership which will be announced in due course.

The split-up is planned to be completed by end of 2022. It is intended to be a tax-free separation.

The news release also states the following regarding shareholder dividend:

In addition, it is expected that the overall shareholder dividend will remain at least at the
same level following the completion of the transaction.

Obviously, there are not a whole lot of details in this press release and we will need to wait and see how this whole thing plays out.

Having said all that though, I am not very surprised by this decision. In my deep-analysis post for JNJ on this blog back in August this year, when I analyzed the major drivers for the revenue for the company in the last five years, I was surprised to see that the consumer health and medical device’s revenue contribution percentage was essentially flat or even slighting declining for the last 5 years.

This trend is consistent for a few more years before that as well. Most of the growth in the company has been from the pharma business segment. This changed my outlook slightly, because I was under the false impression that JNJ was like a “healthcare ETF” given the diversification within its business. At least this is the narrative that is touted all around the internet whenever you read about JNJ.

Such a split-up is not unique to JNJ. In the recent past, we have seen such split-ups in the healthcare industry with atleast two other big business houses: Pfizer (ticker: PFE) spun-off its UpJohn business segment and combined it with Mylan to form a business solely focused on biosimilars called “Viatris”. Similarly, Merck (ticker: MRK) completed its spin-off of Oragnon.

So how do I view this news then? I think it is a positive decision. In Peter Lynch’s “One Up On Wall Street“, he states that huge companies are slow movers in terms of their revenue growth. JNJ is a massive business with a market cap in excess of $430 billion. This split-up will help each individual company focus on its business and help drive revenue growth better.

Am I as excited about the consumer health business as I am about the “new JNJ”? Not so much. I never really owned JNJ for its consumer health business alone, but rather for the overall conglomerate and also the quality of its management. I think the “new JNJ” piece of the business has still a lot of value and growth left.

I have not yet made up my mind about the consumer health piece of the business. A lot will depend on how to business is structured, the quality of the management and the overall brand value. I will need to research that independently to make a decision on what I intend to do with that.

The point of this post is not a “I told you so..” moment. Rather, it is reinforce this notion that all businesses, as with life itself, are subject to change. And the value of doing your own research by reading the fine print of the businesses you own, is priceless.

Happy investing!

Disclosure: JNJ part of “core” category of my dividend portfolio. No positions in PFE or MRK at this time.

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