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Sanofi-Aventis acquires Universal Medicare to scale up OTC & wellness business in India

  • Author: Technical Expert
  • Create Time: 23/08/2011 08:59:22
  • Last Update Time: 06/09/2013 15:04:47

The Sanofi group's Aventis Pharma has formalised an agreement to acquire Universal Medicare Private Ltd's branded nutraceuticals business in the country — strengthening Sanofi's presence in the wellness segment.

This would be France-based Sanofi Group's second acquisition in India over two years, the last being in July 2009, when it picked up majority stake in vaccine-maker Shantha Biotec for over Rs 3,700 crore.

The deal to buy Mumbai-based Universal Medicare' s domestic nutraceutical products is expected to close in the last quarter of 2011, subject to certain conditions, a Sanofi note said, without disclosing financial details.

The size of Universal Medicare's business that will be acquired is Rs 110 crore. Reports, unconfirmed by the company, peg the deal at about Rs 500 crore, amost 5 times compared to that of Universeal’s yearly revenue.

The move is in synch with the growth strategy of Sanofi, a majority stakeholder in Aventis Pharma, the company said. About 750 employees from Universal will move into Aventis Pharma, as well, it added.

The acquisition will allow Aventis Pharma and the Sanofi Group to reach out to large sections of India's population through a broad offering of pharmaceuticals, vaccines and now nutraceuticals, said Dr Shailesh Ayyangar, Managing Director – Aventis Pharma Ltd and Sanofi's Vice-President – South Asia.

Universal Medicare's portfolio of over 40 branded formulations includes the cod liver oil capsule Seacod, vitamins, mineral supplements, primarily antioxidants, anti-arthritics, anti-osteoporotics, liver tonics, and other nutrients. The Universal Medicare business includes products to treat arthritis, along with vitamins and mineral supplements, anti-arthritic drugs and liver tonics. Universal will manufacture the products that Aventis Pharma will acquire on mutually agreed terms, the note added.

Opportunity in Nutraceutical Segement

Sanofi's acquisition of Universal's nutraceuticals business is aligned to its strategy to look at wellness, and not just sickness.

In fact, the nutraceuticals segment in the country is estimated at about Rs 5,000 crore, he said, adding that several multinational and domestic companies are looking at the over-the-counter (OTC) products and nutraceuticals/ food-supplements etc, as they look at healthcare and wellness, rather than tackling sickness through medicines.

The over-the-counter products segment in Indian is valued at roughly 20-30 billion rupees and is growing at 17-18 percent annually, faster than the 12-15 percent growth in the broader pharmaceutical sector. Sanofi has been looking for OTC brands and this is just like grabbing an opportunity for them.  

In May, Johnson & Johnson agreed to buy several over-the-counter medicines sold in Russia from India's JB Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Ltd for about $260 million.

GlaxoSmithkline, for instance, has a consumer healthcare business in India, and in December last year, Reckitt Benckiser had agreed to buy Paras Pharmaceuticals for over Rs 3,200 crore.

Sanofi's latest deal adds to a steadily increasing list of local drug-makers being bought by multinationals — from the Daiichi-Sankyo acquisition of Ranbaxy to the more recent buy of Piramal Healthcare's domestic formulations business by Abbott.

Over-the-counter products made by Indian firms have been acquisition targets for multinational drug companies looking to expand their footprint in fast-growing markets.

Sanofi operates in India through four entities: Aventis Pharma Limited(60.4%), Sanofi-Synthelabo (India) Limited(100%), Sanofi Pasteur India Pvt. Ltd(100%) and Shantha Biotechnics Limited(96.4%).

Sanofi Aventis is acquiring companies across the globe and restructuring it's strategy as it prepares for a production decline after the patent expiry of several blockbuster drugs in the next few years.

Most of the top pharma companies are facing the same problem of patent expiry and are looking for acquisitions in emerging market.

Plavix - a drug for cardiovascular cancer goes off-patent around November this year. The patent for this drug is owned by Sanofi and Bristol Myers. Plavix had sales of more than $5 Bn in US.
Sanofi made 10 acquisitions across the globe in the past couple of years, including a $20.1 Bn acquisition of US based healthcare company Genzyme.


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