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      Wockhardt set to buy stake in Alpharma arm


      Indian pharmaceutical major Wockhardt is believed to be close to acquiring a strategic stake in the generics business of Alpharma Inc, a leading pharma player in the United States.

      JP Morgan is advising Wockhardt on the deal. The company is in talks with JP Morgan's private equity fund to bankroll the deal.

      The generics business of Alpharma is worth $500 million. The company has a strong portfolio of products in the respiratory, Cough and Women's health space.

      Wockhardt's spokesperson declined to comment saying, "As a policy, the company will not comment on speculation." The size of the deal is not known.

      Media reports earlier suggested that Ranbaxy, too, was in the race for acquiring Alpharma's generics business. But a Ranbaxy spokesperson denied that the company had made any such bid. The acquisition is a part of Wockhardt's strategy to strengthen its presence in the US generics market.

      The company had been keen to acquire a generic company with a strong product portfolio. Its US formulations business grew by over 150 per cent in the first half of 2005 and it has another 12 applications pending with the USFDA.

      The acquisition will help the company synergise its generic manufacturing capability along with Alpharma's market establishment in the US -- the largest pharmaceutical market in the world.

      Wockhardt wanted to develop the market and plan to repeat the success in India in terms of market share in these regions. The company is also planning to file 15 to 16 ANDAs this year.

      So far, it has filed five ANDAs, mainly in sterile injectables, therapeutics and cardiovascular and antibiotics segments.

      Collectively, these five ANDAs will address a market size of $2.5 billion.

      Generic drug analysts said Alpharma, which has a market capitalisation of $1.33 billion, was the perfect merger target for Indian companies.

      Alpharma has a robust distribution chain -- sales in 60 countries of more than 200 generic pharmaceuticals and over-the- counter drugs -- but relatively few new drugs in its development pipeline.

      Indian companies are interested in the US market as the generic space there is currently estimated at $11 billion and is projected to grow rapidly as several blockbuster drugs come off patents protection between next year and 2008.

      Pharma sector analysts said the acquisition initiatives by cash-flush Indian companies could gather momentum.


      September 01, 2005


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