March 8, 2019 / 9:20 AM / 8 months ago

Aspen shares plunged by nearly 40 pct on debt worries

JOHANNESBURG, March 8 (Reuters) - Shares of South Africa-based drugmaker Aspen Pharmacare plunged nearly 40 percent on Friday, as rising debt worried investors.

Aspen said after the market closed on Thursday that it will split its South African Commercial Pharmaceuticals business into two divisions as it disposes of non-core assets to reduce its debt.

It said its borrowings, net of cash, had increased by 6.7 billion rand ($461 million) in the six months to Dec. 31, 2018 to 53.5 billion rand as a result of weakness in the rand currency relative to foreign currency denominated loans, payments relating to acquisitions and capital expenditure.

At 0905 GMT, shares in Aspen were down 39.07.

Shares in Aspen, which operates in 56 countries, have now plunged more than 65 percent since it announced a lower-than-expected sale price of its infant milk business in September. The lower price raised questions on whether the company was pressured to sell because it was close to breaching its debt obligations.

$1 = 14.5421 rand Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Susan Fenton

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