Zuellig buys Symbion Pharmacy business in Australia

The HK-based business group shells out $438 million to add the Symbion Pharmacy business in Australia, owned by Primary Health Care, to its own stable of pharmaceuticals companies.
Hong Kong-headquartered Zuellig Group, a privately owned conglomerate, will acquire the Symbion Pharmacy business from AustraliaÆs Primary Healthcare for A$505 million ($438 million).

On behalf of Primary Health Care, Caliburn Partnership ran an auction first for SymbionÆs consumer business and more recently for the pharmacy business. The consumer business realised A$560 million.

The background to the disposals lies in PrimaryÆs A$2.65 billion takeover of Symbion earlier this year. Primary Health Care and Symbion started dialogue in September 2006 when Primary was considering acquiring SymbionÆs pathology business. Primary expressed an interest in an outright takeover of Symbion shortly thereafter but was rebuffed by the much larger Symbion. During 2007 Symbion tried various tactics to stave off PrimaryÆs bid but finally had to capitulate in February 2008. The sale of the consumer and pharmacy businesses followed in March.

Primary Health Care earned A$271 million of revenue in fiscal 2007, of which over half was from its medical centres business and the balance from pathology and health technology. An ageing population, ongoing advances in medical technology providing patients with enhanced access to healthcare services and increasing focus on community health issues are among the factors which make Primary optimistic about prospects for its business.

Symbion Pharmacy is a wholesale distributor of prescription ethical and over-the-counter products to pharmacists and hospitals across Australia. In 2007 the pharmacy business accounted for around 70% of SymbionÆs A$3.8 billion revenue. Symbion also has pathology and diagnostics imaging division.

ôThe sale will allow Primary to focus on its core business and to progress with the integration of SymbionÆs medical centre, pathology and radiology business,ö says PrimaryÆs managing director Edmund Bateman in a filing with the Australian Securities Exchange yesterday.

Zuellig is a Hong Kong-headquartered group of privately-held companies that owns and manages a portfolio of businesses across Asia. In 2007 the group had revenues of over $8 billion.

Among Zuellig's group companies are a number of pharmaceutical businesses. Zuellig Pharma is a distributor of healthcare and pharma products across Asia, which represents over 150 multinational pharmaceuticals manufacturers in more than 12 countries and serves over 120,000 customers. Zuellig Pharma subsidiary, Pharma Industries provides product development, planning and procurement and manufacturing services to over 50 pharmaceutical companies across Asia. PharmaLink, a joint venture between Zuellig Pharma, Temasek Holdings and Quintiles Transnational Corp, helps companies commercialise their pharma portfolios through sales, marketing and healthcare management solutions.

The deal is expected to close by November and has already been approved by AustraliaÆs Foreign Investment Review Board.

Primary Health Care lost 4% on the ASX yesterday to close at A$5.39.
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