November 4, 2016 / 2:42 PM / in 10 months

Exclusive: Endo considers sale of Paladin Labs to Knight Therapeutics - sources

(Reuters) - Endo International Plc (ENDP.O) has discussed a sale of Paladin Labs Inc, its Montreal-based specialty pharmaceutical subsidiary, to Canadian drug maker Knight Therapeutics Inc (GUD.TO), people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The potential deal would help Endo, which has been struggling to cope with pressure on drug prices, pay down some of its $8 billion in debt, while enabling Knight, another specialty pharmaceutical company, to expand further in Canada.

There is no certainty that the discussions will result in a deal, the people said. Endo has also received interest in the business from other companies besides Knight, they added. Any deal would value Paladin at significantly less than the $1.6 billion Endo paid for it in 2014, the people said.

The sources asked not to be identified because the negotiations are confidential. Endo and Knight declined to comment.

Knight's shares, which were down about 1.5 percent, climbed on the Reuters report. They were up 5 percent early on Friday afternoon.

Reuters reported earlier this year that Endo has been exploring asset sales as it seeks to pare back the debt pile it accumulated over the course of several years of fast-paced, acquisition-driven growth.

Endo slashed its earnings guidance in May amid fierce competition from generic drug makers, joining the litany of other specialty drug makers, including Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc (VRX.TO) and Concordia International Corp (CXR.TO), that have taken similar actions.

Endo acquired Paladin Labs in 2014 to build out its presence in markets outside the United States. As part of the transaction, a portion of Paladin Labs' assets that were not added to Endo were placed into a new company called Knight Therapeutics, which was awarded to Paladin Labs' shareholders.

Paladin Labs has a suite of branded drugs marketed in Canada for the treatment of conditions ranging from pain to skin disease.

Endo's international business also includes separate divisions focused on sales in Mexico and Southern Africa. Its acquisition of Paladin Labs was followed in 2015 by the more than $8 billion acquisition of generic drug maker Par Pharmaceuticals from buyout firm TPG Capital LP.

In September, Endo's previous chief executive officer, Rajiv De Silva, stepped down and was replaced by Paul Campanelli, who had previously lead the Par business.

Campanelli's promotion has lead analysts to speculate that Endo may attempt to sell off some of its branded drug business, which is more sensitive to pricing pressure than the generic drugs owned by Par.

Knight is led by CEO Jonathan Goodman, who previously headed Paladin when it was a standalone company.

Reporting by John Tilak in Toronto and Carl O'Donnell in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Meredith Mazzilli

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