Saturday, September 03, 2011

Eli Lilly in Partnership Talks with Turkish Drug Maker

According to a report in WSJ, Eli Lilly & Co. is in talks to form a partnership with, and potentially invest in, Turkish generic-drug company Mustafa Nevzat İlac Sanayii AS, according to people familiar with the matter, marking the latest effort by a big Western multinational to tap emerging markets for growth.

The talks are at an early stage and it is possible no deal will result. Indeed, industry watchers say there are a number of big Western drug companies that could have an interest in MN Pharmaceuticals, as the company is also known.

Though the talks with Lilly are currently focused only on a minority investment, control of the Turkish company also could ultimately be in play given that strategic buyers often prefer that course. MN is worth about $1 billion, one of the people said.

A spokesman for Lilly didn't immediately comment. An MN representative couldn't be reached.

Drug companies and other multinationals in the U.S. and Europe are increasingly looking east and south for an antidote to Western markets where economic growth is sluggish and which are already saturated with their products.

Last October, Pfizer Inc. agreed to pay 400 million reals ($250 million) for a 40% stake in Brazilian generic-drug maker Laboratório Teuto Brasiliero and the option to buy the rest of the company later. Spirits giant Diageo PLC in February agreed to acquire Turkish spirits company Mey Içki Sanayi ve Ticaret AS for $2.1 billion.

Turkey is a particularly attractive emerging market, given its large and increasingly wealthy population of more than 70 million people. Apart from a slowdown resulting from the global financial crisis, economic growth in the country has been swift in recent years.

Linking up with MN Pharmaceuticals would give a foreign drug company access to local distribution, low-cost manufacturing and regulatory expertise, not to mention new products. For Western companies, Turkey can also serve as a springboard to fast-growing markets in Asia.

MN, founded in 1923, makes generic drugs such as antibiotics that are injected rather than taken as pills. For MN, inking a deal with Lilly or another big Western drug company could give it access to a vast foreign distribution network.

Both Lilly and MN have lined up advisers in advance of a potential deal. Besides a foreign drug company, it is also possible MN could sell a stake to a Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund, one of the people said.

Indianapolis-based Lilly, which makes products including the cancer drug Erbitux and Cialis for erectile dysfunction, has done a series of smaller acquisitions in recent years to augment its portfolio.

Lilly hasn't done a major deal since 2008, when it agreed to buy biotech concern Imclone Systems for $6.5 billion.

No comments: