World News

Exclusive: Germany’s Stada buys 15 GSK consumer health brands

By Ludwig Burger

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Private equity-backed generic drugmaker Stada <STAGn.D> said it has agreed to buy 15 consumer healthcare products from British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline <GSK.L> to further strengthen its prescription-free drugs business in Europe.

The brands – venous treatment Venoruton, Coldrex cold remedy, Cetebe vitamin C supplements, Mebucaine for sore throats and Tavegyl allergy relief, among others – are marketed in more than 40 countries including Germany, Russia, Poland and Spain.

Stada agreed to pay more than 300 million euros ($325 million) according to two people familiar with the transaction. Stada and GSK declined to comment on the price.

GSK, which has combined its over-the-counter (OTC) products unit with that of Pfizer, is focusing on brands with global or larger cross-border reach while Stada is keen to expand a portfolio of smaller, national products, spokesmen for the companies said.

“Under our ownership, we believe there is an excellent opportunity to revitalize and grow these consumer healthcare brands,” Stada Chief Executive Peter Goldschmidt told Reuters.

GSK said the deal counted towards its target of 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion) of net proceeds from divestments of consumer products over the 2019-20 period, as laid out in December 2018 under a joint venture deal with Pfizer.

“This divestment signals the good progress we are making towards our target,” a GSK spokesman said.

Stada, majority owned by buyout firms Bain and Cinven since 2017, expects the transaction to close during the second quarter of this year.

Stada CEO Goldschmidt said last year the company would focus mainly on striking production and development deals with partners, rather than buying companies outright.

Earlier this year, GSK launched a two-year program to split into two entities, separating the core prescription drugs and vaccines business from the enlarged over-the-counter products business.

Having sold two travel vaccines to Bavarian Nordic <BAVA.CO> for up to 955 million euros in October, the British group is looking into divesting more pharmaceutical assets, starting with a review of its prescription dermatology business with about 200-300 million pounds in annual sales.

The Stada deal echoes a similar transaction in June 2019, when the German group agreed to buy six Europe-focused consumer brands – including itch relief cream Eurax and Tixylix cough liquids – from GSK for an undisclosed price.

Stada sells consumer healthcare products such as painkillers and sunscreen lotions as well as generic prescription drugs, which are cheaper copies of established pharmaceuticals that have lost patent protection.

In November, Stada purchased over-the-counter and prescription drugs units from Japan’s largest drugmaker Takeda <4502.T> for $660 million, in the German group’s largest deal to date that boosted its Russian footprint.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)