Stephen Saad’s phone must be ringing off the hook from prospective buyers of pharmaceutical company Aspen, after its surprise 31% share price drop in the past week left the stock at its cheapest level yet. It must have unnerved Saad, 54, who founded the group 21 years ago in a house in Durban, as it came after full-year results that weren’t awful: revenue was up 3% to R42.5bn and pre-tax earnings rose 5% to R12bn. "Look, I don’t watch the share price much, but the fall was still a shock," says Saad in an interview with the FM.

"Before the results, I thought the strategic imperative was to deleverage the balance sheet, so I thought the share might rise. I don’t always get the market reaction right, but I never, ever get it this wrong." What really smacked Aspen was that it sold its infant milk business for $860m to French company Lactalis — lower than the $1bn the market expected. Of course, $1bn was never likely. As it was, the price was rich enough: about 24 times that busine...

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