Abbott buys Piramal's pharma arm for $3.7bn

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Old 22-May-2010
Abbott buys Piramal's pharma arm for $3.7bn

MUMBAI: The hunter has become the hunted. In the second-largest deal ever in the Indian pharma industry, US-based Abbott Laboratories has acquired the pharmaceuticals solution business of Piramal Healthcare for $3.72 billion (Rs 17,500 crore).

The compensation includes an upfront payment of $2.12 billion, with an additional $400 million annually for the next four years. The Indian drug maker, which itself has made 15 acquisitions since 1988, insists it will remain in the industry and invest in the remaining business.

The deal is just behind Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo's $4.2 billion takeover of another homegrown drug major, Ranbaxy, in 2008.

It will also catapult Abbott from just about nowhere to the top position in the Indian pharmaceutical market, with a marketshare of close to 7%. Abbott will add 350 branded generic drugs from the Piramal portfolio, including Phensedyl, one of the top two pharma brands in the country.

"The India story is an attractive growth story, but globally and in emerging markets, there is a new way of selling drugs (patented products), which we would not have been able to do on our own," Ajay Piramal, chairman of the Piramal group, told TOI. "The company's business will get an impetus with Abbott acquiring it."

Piramal's Healthcare Solutions accounted for about 55% of its revenue at the end of 2009. Ajay Piramal, however, reiterated that he was not exiting the business. For Abbott, it’s a clear bid to capitalize on the gold rush in emerging pharmaceutical markets. For MNCs, emerging markets, with their cheaper generic medicines, are turning out to be the new battleground, given that most are witnessing stalled sales in Western markets. Industry forecaster IMS Health has predicted that leading emerging markets will show annual pharmaceuticals sales growth of 14%-17% through 2014, against just 3%-6% a year in the developed markets.

Miles D White, chairman and CEO, Abbott said: “This strategic action will advance Abbott into the leading market position in India. The deal will complement our market-leading proprietary pharmaceutical offerings and pipeline in developed markets.”

Abbott estimates the growth of its Indian pharmaceutical business with Piramal to approach 20% annually, with expected sales of more than $2.5 billion by 2020. With nearly $8 billion in annual sales this year, the Indian market is expected to more than double by 2015.

In terms of total turnover would be among the top 10, with a turnover of around Rs 3,000 crore. According to a chairman of a top bank in the know who would not be named, Glaxo is learnt to have bid $1.5 billion, while Pfizer bid over $1.7 billion. ‘‘It looks overvalued,’’ he said.

The deal is also being hailed as a precursor to better times for domestic drug compaies looking to bail out. According to an analyst who spoke to TOI requesting anonymity: “Commercially, it is a fantastic deal. Piramal has always been the all-conquering Indian hero and one would have thought, should have been the last man standing instead of capitulating so easily. This one is a huge positive for Piramal, but a major negative for Indian pharma.”

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