Piramal won’t “dilute ownership,” or comment on Sanofi rumours

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Big pharma Barack obama Pharmaceutical industry

Indian generics firm Piramal Healthcare says it "has no intention to dilute current ownership levels," but has not commented on rumours that it is in talks with French firm Sanofi Aventis.

Speculation emerged last week in an Economic Timesof India ​article where it was claimed that Sanofi was willing to pay a premium for a “significant stake​” in Piramal and had already completed a due diligence review of the deal. The Indian firm’s share price jumped some 17 per cent on the day the story broke.

When contacted by in-PharmaTechnologist Piramal would not elaborate on the statement but, while most observers view the comments as scotching last week’s rumours, the lack of an outright denial of the Sanofi deal and careful choice of words still leave the possibility of an sale.

While Sanofi would not comment either, the $2bn (€1.6bn) price tag that emerged on earlier speculation that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was interested in Piramal, would fit with statements by CEO Christopher Viebacher that the firm is interested in sub $5bn acquisitions and wants to expand its presence in India.

The fact Piramal has a significant generics business would also be in keeping with recent Sanofi moves, in particular the acquisition of Czech generics group Zentiva and recent speculation that it is interested in Brazil’s Medley and Iceland’s Actavis.

If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em; Big Pharma’s lust for generics

Irrespective of whether the Sanofi Piramal rumours prove to be accurate, it is an undeniable fact that Big Pharma’s interest in generic acquisitions has accelerated in recent years.

As the 2012 deadline for blockbuster patent expiry draws near and the global economy stutters, most majors are rethinking strategy and placing less emphasis on expensive R&D and innovation.

Merck & Co’s entry into biogenerics with its BioVentures unit in December and Daiichi’s purchase of India Ranbaxy the month before are the latest in a long line of moves that has seen majors like Pfizer and Novartis gradually increase their non-branded businesses in a bid to make up for thinning pipelines.

In addition the persistent rumours that Actavis and Ratiopharm are attracting Big Pharma interest, as well as Sun Pharmaceutical’s ongoing battle for Taro Pharmaceuticals, indicate that more deals are on the way.

Furthermore, US President Barrack Obama’s plans to revamp the country’s healthcare system through a greater reliance on generic drugs raises the likelihood that non-branded drugmakers with a presence in the country, including Piramal which recently acquired Minrad, will continue to draw Big Pharma’s attention.

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