Altana planning to float chemicals business?

Related tags Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease Pharmaceutical drug Asthma

Shares in German group Altana advanced at the end of last week on
the re-emergence of rumours that it is planning to separate its
pharmaceuticals and chemicals businesses via a spin-out.

The move, according to a report by Financial Times Deutschland which cited unnamed company managers, would involve floating the Altana Chemie business on the stock exchange, in a manner similar to that adopted by Bayer when it floated its chemicals business under the Lanxess banner at the end of January.

In recent years, Altana Pharma's growth has been driven by the gastrointestinal drug Pantozol/Protonix (pantoprazole), which achieved sales of €2.5 billion - through Altana and US marketing partner Wyeth - last year. With patent expirations on this drug expected in 2009 (Europe) and 2010 (US), there has been a lot of interest in whether the German company can find a new growth driver. But the approval of a new corticosteroid for asthma Alvesco (ciclesonide) last year, which analysts believe could be a billion-euro-plus product, suggests this may be the case.

Alvesco and another pipeline drug - Daxas (roflumilast) for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - have caused any concerns about a pipeline gap after pantoprazole to recede, and have prompted suggestions that Altana's pharma and chemicals units could benefit from a more independent structure.

Altana would not comment on the FT Deutscheland report, which also suggested that the German company may also be planning an acquisition to expand the chemicals business.

Altana reported strong rises in 2004 sales and earnings, with the pharma division posting a 7 per cent hike in revenues to €2.1 billion and Altana Chemie up 13 per cent to €834 million.

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