SOUTH AFRICA – Drug maker Aspen Pharmacare has sold six prescription medicines used for the treatment of gastroenterology, erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular diseases to Swiss pharmaceutical company Acino Healthcare Group for US$ 121.5 million (R1.8 billion).

Chief Executive at Acino Stephen Saad, said the transaction formed part of the group’s communicated strategy to refine its product portfolio in South Africa.

“The acquisition of these trusted brands in South Africa represents excellent scaling and commercial opportunities for Acino as it expands its footprint in South Africa by adding these products to its existing product portfolio,” he remarked.

It is anticipated that the transaction will complete by the end of December 2021 and will be conditional upon the fulfilment of conditions precedent including regulatory approvals.

Aspen and Acino will enter into a Manufacturing and Supply Agreement in terms of which Aspen will supply the Aspen manufactured products to Acino for 7 years.

This partnership is a compelling affirmation of Acino’s long-term strategy and purpose to increase people’s access to affordable healthcare in the areas where they need them most.

The acquisition comes on the heels of a series of other strategic investments, including the acquisition of a women’s health portfolio in Russia earlier this year and Takeda’s primary care portfolio in 2020.

John Norman, Regional Director English-Speaking Africa at Acino, said the company works hard to make a meaningful contribution to the South African economy by providing best-in-class products and service to patients and healthcare practitioners, as well as creating employment opportunities.

“This further aligns with our commitment to transformation and retaining our Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Level 1 certification. With this acquisition, Acino will enhance the value of these brands through our in-depth expertise and experience in the market,” Norman said.

Aspen, South Africa’s biggest pharma manufacturer, which is in the process of refining its product portfolios to ensure that the offering remains relevant to dynamic market conditions, last month indicated that it would reinstate dividends after cutting debt to well below the levels required by its lenders.

The group placed dividend payments on ice in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, due to high levels of debt acquired during a series of acquisitions that diversified the company beyond its historic generics base.

Aspen’s net debt was halved during the year to June 30, 2021, to R16.3bn, compared to R35.2bn a year earlier.

Aspen began producing Covid-19 vaccines at its manufacturing site in Gqeberha towards the end of the third quarter of the financial year ended June, 30, 2021.

The group previously said its strategy to invest in sterile manufacturing facilities had positioned it to play an increasing role in the provision of the Covid-19 vaccine with potential to make a meaningful contribution to addressing the inequality in access to medicines.

Aspen is hopeful that the current discussions between Johnson & Johnson and Aspen, including a possible licence for Africa, could make a meaningful contribution to improving equitable Covid-19 vaccine access for the continent,” it said.

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