Hikma has war chest of $500m ready to spend

Pharmaceutical firms are in an optimistic mood as the demand for wonder drugs keeps growing
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The Independent Online

Hikma Pharmaceuticals, which has just bought Baxter International's US drugs unit, has another $500m war chest to spend on yet more acquisitions.

Said Darwazah, Hikma's chief executive, said on Friday: "You should see the big smile on my face. Our global injectables business has doubled in size overnight. We will see $180m worth of sales a year and our sales team will grow from eight to 28 people. Baxter has wonderful systems in place that we can benefit from as we can piggy-back our own existing products into the US market, which will bring very good synergies."

The Jordan-based generic drug manufacturer, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, paid $112m for Baxter which produces generic drugs such as injectable anticonvulsants and antipsychotics. The deal catapults Hikma from being the 10th to the second biggest supplier of these drugs in the US with a 15 per cent market share.

Mr Darwazah added that Hikma's strategy was to double in size every four years, and the firm is actively looking to expand in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, and in Europe where it already has a strong presence. After the deal, financed partly by raising new debt, Hikma still has $500m of facilities to fund new expansion.

"We are working with one regional bank and three global banks and our ability to source debt has not been too difficult," Mr Darwazah said. "Our ability to do more acquisitions in the Mena region is not affected by the Baxter deal as the price we paid still leaves us a good amount of money."

Hikma's share price rose more than 6 per cent after the deal and closed the week at 786p, valuing the company at £1.5bn. It was one of the biggest risers in the FTSE-250 index.

Other pharmaceutical companies in optimistic mode include Shire Pharmaceuticals, the third biggest UK drugs group, which on Friday upped this year's full-year earnings forecast to $874.3m from $851m after bumper third-quarter sales of its rare diseases medicines. The Basingstoke-based Shire, one of the fastest growing drugs companies in the world and now worth £8bn, said its attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug Vyvanse, which is approved for use in the US, will now be explored for use in patients with major depressive disorder following a clinical trial.

BTG, the fifth largest pharmaceutical firm, will report interim figures this week. It is making progress on two potential blockbuster drugs with partners AstraZeneca and Genzyme.

In another positive move in an industry on the hunt for new breakthrough drugs, AstraZeneca said last week it had started mid-stage trials for its experimental drug CytoFab which treats sepsis, the bloodstream infection that killed footballer George Best. The sepsis drugs market could be worth as much as $7bn a year, as there are relatively few new treatments. If the drug works and is approved, BTG is in line for substantial royalties, equivalent to 25 per cent of sales of CytoFab.

Genzyme's Campath, which is used to treat a type of blood cancer, could be another big earner for BTG. Genzyme, which is currently fighting a hostile takeover bid from Sanofi-Aventis, said last week that Campath could reach $3bn of sales if approved for use in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

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