Pharmaceutical tycoon Stephen Saad is losing the battle to ward off comparisons between Aspen Pharmacare, the company he founded 21 years ago, and Steinhoff International, whose collapse last year was the biggest corporate failure in SA's history. On Friday, the shares of the Durban-based drugs manufacturer plunged as much as 51% as investors stewed over its plans to rein in debts that have ballooned over the course of an aggressive acquisition strategy. The company has expanded into 56 markets over its two-decades long existence. Aspen's debt stands at R53.5bn, more than its R45.7bn market capitalisation. At the height of the Steinhoff crisis early last year, Saad was likened by some analysts to Steinhoff's infamous former CEO Markus Jooste — as a CEO who thought he walked on water. Markets have become less patient with companies like Aspen that use debt to grow, and they have come under significant scrutiny in the wake of the Jooste scandal. "People are kind of worried ... after S...

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