Teva bought the pharm, and now it may have bought the farm
Hebrew media review

Teva bought the pharm, and now it may have bought the farm

The drug-maker is left for dead in the press, with pundit-coroners determining overpurchasing and poor management as the cause of death

Workers of the Teva company protest against the company plan to lay off hundreds of employees, outside the TEVA Pharmaceutical Industries building in Jerusalem, December 14, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Workers of the Teva company protest against the company plan to lay off hundreds of employees, outside the TEVA Pharmaceutical Industries building in Jerusalem, December 14, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Thursday morning, papers were filled with anger and pathos over an expected decision by pharmaceutical giant Teva to fire between one-third and one-half of its 6,800-strong workforce in Israel. The bad news indeed came Thursday, and though it was not as bad as everyone expected — 1,700 workers fired, or one-quarter of the workforce — the number is still enormous enough that the papers on Friday are again up in arms, reflecting the fury of the company’s workers.

Both Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom feature pictures of protesting workers setting fires on their front pages. Haaretz also leads with the story, though without the flaming visual.

Yedioth calls the news a “hard day for the economy in general and especially for the company’s workers” and all three papers balance the nitty-gritty of what the cost-cutting measures entail with accounts of the workers’ protests and the planned strike action for Sunday.

Yedioth goes through the list of organizations that will be shut down Sunday, from health clinics to banks, to the airport and — of course — Teva, though it’s not exactly clear what the Histadrut Labor Federation is trying to accomplish with the limited action.

More clear is what Teva is trying to accomplish, with a graphic in Israel Hayom explaining that the layoffs (which also include over 12,000 more firings overseas) will save the company approximately $3 billion in two years, helping it slightly draw down its $40 billion debt. The stock market has responded by lifting Teva’s share price by some 13 percent.

Yet the papers seem to have little faith that the moves will be enough, with the words “Teva’s collapse” appearing repeatedly in Israel Hayom and Haaretz, and pundits weighing in on what went wrong.

“One day, managerial schools will teach the Teva case study and it will be looked at from every possible angle: business, management, strategy, consumerism and social aspects. But the most interesting and critical angle will be the point that they made the terrible decision to buy Actavis, which was supposed to be a poison pill that would keep the company from being taken over and ended up being the pill that poisoned the firm,” Sami Peretz writes in Haaretz, referring to the UK drugmaker Teva bought last year, putting it $40 billion in the hole.

In Yedioth, Sever Plotzker writes that he thinks Teva is actually a great company and could have a great future, but only if it institutes a wellness plan along with the belt-tightening, and in his view that doesn’t mean getting rid of more people at the bottom.

“The fundamental problems with Teva don’t come from having too many workers or inflated salaries. Teva’s problems are the responsibility of only upper management,” he writes. “Teva took on a strategy that was at its heart purchasing and merging, and more purchasing and more merging. The idea that offense is the best defense pushed management to buy competitors as a way of stopping them from possibly taking them over. It quickly galloped into being the largest generics maker, funded by heavy debt.”

In the meantime, though, it is the people at the bottom feeling the heat, like Kiryat Shemona worker Tali Hasson, who writes in Israel Hayom of her fears that she will be among those cut.

Employees of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries protest against the company’s plan to lay off 1,700 employees, in Kiryat Shmona, December 14, 2017. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

“Today my future is shrouded in fog. I fear that instead of realizing my dreams I will be forced to end this chapter of the last 21 years and find a new path. A chapter of mutual giving, which I am thankful for and cherish. A chapter that with its closing will bring a painful farewell from the place that was my home. The place that has job security and a quiet life since I struck out on my own,” she writes.

Job security is great, and so is security security, which is also near the top of the news agenda, given rising tension with Hamas and a court ruling that says Israel cannot just hang on to attackers’ bodies willy-nilly as bargaining chips. Both Yedioth and Israel Hayom play up opposition to the court ruling, with the latter’s Haim Shine calling it “disconnected from reality.”

“Hamas is holding the bodies of IDF soldiers who were killed in a campaign to defend the state, and the bereaved parents are crying out, wishing to pay their last respects to their fallen sons. Hamas terrorists, evil and inhuman, refuse to even pass along information about the fallen, are not willing to return the bodies and are even trying to trade with them,” the columnist fumes (apparently forgetting that Israel also holds bodies to use as bargaining chips).

“Against such lowliness, which even insults wild animals, the High Court rules that decision-makers must act according to the principles of human dignity. Terrorists who have cast off every glimmer of humanity cannot expect to be treated according to wonderful and inspiring rules of polite society. There is no need for a legal source of authority to allow the military commanders to hold the bodies of terrorists who murdered innocent Israelis and planned terrorist attacks,” he writes.

As for the possibility of their soon being more bodies, should Israel and Hamas butt heads in war again, Yedioth’s Yossi Yehoshua writes that the army is convinced that even with an uptick in rocket fire, the Gazan group doesn’t want war, though that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

“Defense officials say that even if Hamas does not want a wider confrontation, it has pushed forward its operational readiness and is ready for anything, fearing that Israel may launch an offensive. Israel has identified in Gaza an atmosphere of tension and the fear that a war will break out because of some misunderstanding stemming from the tensions,” he writes.

Reading signals across borders can be difficult, which is why it might seem from Israel’s perspective that America’s plans for a peace proposal are stuck, given that nobody has heard boo about them in quite a while. But not to worry! Haaretz brings a helpful message from the White House that the plans are doing great, they are just hanging out until the region cools down a bit following the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and all the anger that brought with it.

“We have said what we have said all along — the president remains as committed to peace as ever and we are not surprised by reactions which have the potential to result in a temporary cooling off period,” the paper quotes an administration official saying. “In the meantime, we will remain hard at work putting together our plan, which will benefit the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.”

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