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Antibiotice gets interest from drugmakers, funds

Antibiotice, the lone state-owned Romanian pharmaceutical company, attracted interest from 22 possible bidders from the US, Europe and Asia as the government seeks to sell its stake.

As many as seven drugmakers, 12 investment funds and three pharmaceutical distributors expressed written interest in buying the state's 53 billion holding by yesterday's deadline, Adrian Ciucur, a head director at the privatization division for the government's asset-sales agency, said. He declined to identify the companies. “This is a very positive signal, and is in line with our expectations because Antibiotice SA is the last state-owned drugmaker for sale in Romania,” Ciucur said yesterday in a telephone interview in Bucharest. The potential bidders requested that “their interest be kept confidential at this stage.” Antibiotice, a generic-drug maker in the eastern city of Iasi, represents a last chance for companies to enter Romania's pharmaceutical market through an acquisition. Generic drug sales in Romania probably will double to €800 million ($1.02 billion) by 2009, according to Nomura Code in London. Romania will join the European Union on Januar 1. Of the 12 investment funds, “two are major ones and three are regional funds with a strong track record in acquisitions in the pharmaceutical industry,” Ciucur said. Two of the seven pharmaceutical companies “are leading international drugmakers,” he said.

The asset-sale agency will put Antibiotice up for sale “by mid-November,” when a data room and tender book will be made available to potential investors, Ciucur said. “We aim at concluding the transaction by the end of the Q1 of next year." Potential investors will be required to make binding expressions of interest in early December and make binding financial offers by the end of this year, Ciucur said. “We will select a minimum of two based on their financial offers and then the winner based on the highest offer made,” Ciucur said. “It's all part of a three-step process.” Antibiotice makes a quarter of the world's nystatin antibiotic and 10 billion of the world's B-12 vitamin pills, the agency said in an official presentation of the company. Romania's asset-sale agency said October 16 that potential bidders must be companies or a group led by a company or a financial investor with proven experience in the drug industry. The government is no longer considering packaging its 53% stake with the 10 billion held by Romanian investment fund SIF Oltenia in the sale because the fund said it is interested in buying the company, Ciucur said. Biofarm SA, another Romanian drugmaker, said on Tuesday that it may make an offer for the state's stake in Antibiotice as part of a bidding group that include Romanian funds SIF Oltenia, SIF Moldova SA and SIF Banat-Crisana SA. Antibiotice shares rose 0.09 lei, or 5.2 billion, to 1.83 lei in Bucharest. (Bloomberg)