Piramal in talks to buy US contract drug maker Cambridge for $200 m

Written by MG Arun | Baiju Kalesh | Mumbai | Updated: Jun 16 2012, 09:12am hrs
Ajay PiramalAjay Piramal, Piramal Healthcare chairman
Piramal Healthcare (PHL) is in talks to buy US contract drug manufacturer Cambridge Major Laboratories (CML) for around $200 million, a person with direct knowledge of the development said. Early stage negotiations are on and it will take a while to conclude the deal, he said. PHL is the flagship company of the Ajay Piramal-owned Piramal Group while the Wisconsin-based unlisted CML makes pharmaceutical intermediates and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) used in drugs. The company is a global chemistry outsourcing partner to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, owning three facilities in US and one in Europe.

An email sent to the address mentioned on the CML website remained unanswered. As per policy, we do not comment on market speculation, a PHL spokesperson said.

Piramal, who built his pharmaceuticals empire with 25 takeovers in two decades, sold his domestic drug business to Abbott Laboratories in May 2010 for $3.8 billion (around Rs 16,500 crore then). At the time of the sale, Piramal had said that the money would be channeled into businesses providing high returns, and that opportunities were everywhere.

As on March 2012, PHL had cash and current investments of R444 crore. It had receivables of R4,000 crore from Abbott.

PHL operates in five sectors pharma, drug discovery, information management, financial services and defence. The pharmaceuticals segment includes contract manufacturing, global critical care and over-the-counter businesses. We will pursue organic and inorganic growth in all these segments,PHL group chief financial officer Rajesh Laddha had told FE during a recent interaction.

Consultants said contract manufacturing holds good prospects for Indian firms as foreign companies look to outsource. Contract manufacturing is growing at a rate of 15-20% every year, said Sujay Shetty, India leader, pharma and life sciences at PricewaterhouseCoopers India.

The high cost of manufacturing in overseas markets has seen manufacturing shift towards the East, said Shetty.

Indian companies like Aurobindo, Piramal, Shasun and Divi's Labs have been able to tap this opportunity with their manufacturing facilities that meet top global regulatory standards, he said, adding Indian companies will also look for niche acquisitions in this space abroad that will complement their capabilities.

Piramal has been following what he calls a 'string of pearls' acquisition strategy to create a global presence in niche healthcare and pharma segments. In May, PHL acquired Decision Resources Group, a US-based company in the healthcare information segment, for around $635 million (Rs 3,400 crore).

Earlier, it acquired worldwide rights to the molecular imaging research and development portfolio of Bayer Pharma AG for an undisclosed sum, as part of its efforts to build a strong portfolio under its drug discovery programme. In June 2010, it had bought Canadian medical devices manufacturer BioSyntech Inc.

PHL shares rose 3.13% to close at Rs 485.50 on the BSE on Friday.