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Aspen CEO sees China overtaking SA as biggest market

Mar 09 2018 09:19
Janice Kew, Bloomberg

Johannesburg - Aspen Pharmacare Holdings sees China eventually overtaking South Africa as its biggest market as the company completes its transition to a global therapeutics business from an Africa-focused generic-drugs maker.

The business sells medicines in more than 150 countries and is looking for partners as it expands in China, the Middle East and the US. The infant-milk formula market is just one area that represents a good opportunity in Asia’s most populous nation as the market consolidates, Chief Executive Officer Stephen Saad said.

“Four years ago, Asia was less than 10 % of total commercial pharma revenue, while China is now no. 3 by sales and Asia is bigger than Australia,” he said in an interview in Johannesburg on Thursday.

“China has every opportunity to get to no. 1,” he added, declining to comment on how long it would take.

Revenue from therapeutic brands, which include anesthetic and blood-clotting medicines, rose to 45% of first-half sales after the Durban, South Africa-based company said in September it would buy more rights to AstraZeneca’s anesthetic medicines for $555m. It made similar purchases in 2016.

Saad said the company is generating enough cash for more deal making, particularly in emerging markets.

“There’s about 2 000 brands in China and we think that’s going to go down to 500 as about three-quarters of them are not going to get registration,” the CEO said. “We are going to focus on growing online and selling to mother-and-baby stores.”

The shares rose 1.8% to close at R261.70 in Johannesburg, valuing the company at R119.5bn. First-half earnings per share, excluding one-time items, climbed 26% to R8.72.

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