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MISSION:INTANGIBLE, the blog of the Intangible Asset Finance Society, offers critical comments on intangible asset, corporate reputation, and finance; supplemented by quantitative reputation metrics. Intangible assets include business processes, patents, trademarks; reputations for ethics and integrity; quality, safety, sustainability, security, and resilience; and comprise 70% of the average company's value. MISSION:INTANGIBLE is a registered trademark of the Intangible Asset Finance Society.

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Baxter: The long tail of supply chain woes

C. HUYGENS - Thursday, June 16, 2011
In early 2008, Baxter International (NYSE:BAX) began a series of product recalls involving the drug, Heparin, that was manufactured with ingredients sourced from a supplier in China. Yesterday, the first of the product liability litigation cases arising reached the verdict stage.

According the to the Chicago Tribune (9 June, Japsen), a Cook County Circuit Court jury Thursday awarded $625,000 to the estate of a man who his attorneys say was given a dosage of a blood thinner made by Baxter International Inc. that contained a contaminated ingredient found in the company's supply chain in China.

The verdict is the first from a case against Baxter and its supplier, Wisconsin-based Scientific Protein Laboratories, from hundreds of lawsuits filed against the Deerfield-based medical product giant. A mountain of litigation has been leveled against the companies after U.S. regulators determined in 2008 that Baxter's heparin was contaminated, from fake ingredients sourced in China.

The Wall Street Journal (9 June, Kell) quotes Baxter spokeswoman Deborah Spak as saying the company is taking responsibility for legitimate cases of harm related to the contamination seriously, adding that Baxter will "vigorously defend claims that are not consistent with the definition established by public health authorities." Baxter's therapies treat serious medical problems such as cancer, immune disorders and trauma. The company is coming off a challenging year due to economic weakness, costs pegged to the U.S. health-care overhaul and some product-quality and regulatory challenges.  It's stock price has appreciated around 50% over the trailing twelve months and shares rose an additional 0.3% to $59.05 in after-hours trading -- not the sort of economic performance associated with a company facing new challenges.

Turning to the reputation metrics from Steel City Re, Baxter is wrapping up the trailing twelve months ahead at the 88th percentile from a start at the 72nd. Its reputation metric volatility, exponentially weighted, is down to about 6%, its reputation velocity is on the upswing at 7% and its reputation vector is positive at 1%. All are signs of reputational recovery. Economically, it is outperforming the median of its peer group comprising 172 companies in the Pharmaceutical sector by a comfortable 17.82%



Finally, while the sector as a whole is demonstrating increased level of reputational volatility reaching around 36%, the Company's intangible asset fraction got a small boost and is now around 90%, slightly above that of the median of its peer group.

We conclude that as with Johnson & Johnson's supply chain issue of the early 1980's, Baxter took the hit early on (2008) and has since progressed with the expected long-term costs of this quality/safety issue already deeply embedded in the stock price and in reputation-related expectations.

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