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Business Concentrates

March 1, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 9

Yamanouchi, Fujisawa to merge, forming big Japanese drug firm

Yamanouchi Pharmaceutical has agreed to acquire its Japanese rival Fujisawa Pharmaceutical in a $7.8 billion purchase that will create Japan's second largest drug company after Takeda Chemical Industries. The companies, which acknowledged last fall that they were in talks, say the deal should be complete by April 1, 2005. The still unnamed new firm will have combined sales of $6.0 billion per year, making it a giant in Japan but only number 17 in the global pharmaceutical ranking. The merged firm's annual R&D budget will be some $1.2 billion, a level it says is high enough to be competitive in the global marketplace. Japanese drug companies are facing many of the same competitive pressures as their U.S. and European counterparts, with the additional threat of encroachment by these rivals. "We wouldn't want to become a Japanese subsidiary of a foreign company", Fujisawa President Hatsuo Aoki said last week.

Clariant details survival moves

Financially beleaguered Clariant has announced further restructuring measures. The company aims to cut 4,000 jobs--some 15% of its total workforce--in the next two years, largely in administration, infrastructure, production, and supply-chain functions. And it will issue additional shares designed to raise $740 million. According to CEO Roland Loesser, the job cuts "are painful, but unfortunately they are unavoidable given the need to ensure Clariant's long-term strength." The capital increase, he adds, is necessary to strengthen the company's balance sheet and cut debt. Loesser was able to sweeten the news slightly last week with the report that Clariant showed a 1% increase in sales in 2003, to $6.8 billion, and net profits of $130 million, compared with a loss of nearly $560 million in 2002.

Noveon tries an IPO again

For the second time since it spun off from BFGoodrich in February 2001, specialty chemicals maker Noveon has filed a prospectus with the Securities & Exchange Commission for an initial public offering of shares. As with the filing in July 2002, which was canceled about a year later, Noveon hopes to raise up to $345 million. The money will be used to pay down debt. Information on the number of shares and the offering price will come in future filings. Last year, Noveon's net income excluding special items fell 37% to $26 million compared with 2002, while sales rose 6% to $1.1 billion.

PPG, Kansai mull paint pact

After agreeing to terminate its automotive coatings joint venture with DuPont in December because of "incompatible global strategies," Japan's Kansai Paint is negotiating a similar alliance with PPG Industries. The two would initially set up marketing and sales operations in North America and Europe for Japanese automotive makers. Later, they would set up similar operations in China and other Asian countries to serve regional makers.

Merck, deCode in alliance ....

Merck has signed a seven-year agreement with deCode Genetics under which deCode will conduct clinical trials on a range of Merck's developmental compounds. DeCode will use its population genetics expertise to complement Merck's ongoing clinical development process. DeCode will receive royalties on sales of drugs and diagnostics developed under the alliance, as well as research funding and milestone payments. In addition, Merck has purchased $10 million in deCode stock and has a warrant to buy $50 million of additional shares over the next five years.

... as Merck buys cancer start-up

In an effort to boost its cancer drug development program, Merck has agreed to acquire Aton Pharma, a biotechnology company in Tarrytown, N.Y., specializing in small-molecule inhibitors for chromatin-modifying enzymes. Aton's lead candidate, known as suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid, is currently in Phase II clinical trials for the treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Aton was founded in 2001 to develop cancer therapies discovered in the labs of Paul A. Marks, head of developmental cell biology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, and Ronald Breslow, a chemistry professor at Columbia University.

Lonza, Abbott in protein deals

Lonza and Abbott Laboratories have signed separate agreements to produce monoclonal antibodies for biotech firms. Lonza and NovImmune announced a deal under which Lonza could potentially manufacture a range of products in NovImmune's pipeline of fully human therapeutic monoclonal antibodies derived through NovImmune's transgenic mouse technology. Abbott has agreed to manufacture monoclonal antibodies developed by Seattle Genetics, including SGN-30, a drug candidate in Phase II clinical trials for treatment of Hodgkin's disease.

REACH stalls in Parliament


The European Commission's REACH program for registering, evaluating, and authorizing chemicals will not be acted upon by the European Parliament between now and the end of its term in mid-July. Work on it will be continued by the new Parliament to be elected. That's the prediction of Pat Cox, president of the Parliament and a member of its Irish delegation. The proposed regulations were bogged down while the Parliament debated which committee would steer the program through: environment, legal affairs, or industry. "We have anchored the process with the environment committee,"Cox says, "but with mandatory openness to the other two committees--they have what we term a heavy right of address" to make comments and suggestions regarding any amendments made by the Parliament.

Sigma-Aldrich plans India lab

Sigma-Aldrich will build an $8 million laboratory-scale production complex at the ICICI Knowledge Park in Hyderabad, India. Sigma says the facility will open by the first quarter of next year, eventually housing 70 to 80 chemists doing contract research, process development, and small-scale custom synthesis work largely for pharmaceutical customers. The lab is intended to feed the firm's larger scale operations in Europe and the U.S.

ISP inks two agreements

International Specialty Products has struck two deals in the food and pharmaceutical markets. The company has acquired Red Carnation Gums, excluding its tea-warehousing business. Red Carnation is a maker of food emulsifiers, stabilizers, and gelling systems based in Essex, U.K. Separately, ISP has expanded its cellulose ingredients distribution agreement with Taiwan's Mingtai Chemical beyond Brazil.

BASF, Toray ally in resin

BASF and Toray Industries are joining to build a 60,000-metric-ton-per-year polybutylene terephthalate resin plant at BASF's site in Kuantan, Malaysia, by 2006. The plant, to be based on Toray technology, will use butanediol feedstock that BASF makes there. The 50–50 production alliance follows a trend in engineering plastics of building joint-venture plants for virgin resins that are compounded and sold separately by the partners. Last year, DuPont and Bayer opened an 80,000-ton PBT facility in Hamm-Uentrop, Germany. DSM and Ticona are planning a PBT plant in Europe.


Fortron expands PPS capacity

Fortron Industries, a joint venture between Kureha Chemical Industry and Celanese's Ticona unit, will install a new process aimed at speeding throughput at its Wilmington, N.C., polyphenylene sulfide plant, leading to a 25% boost in capacity when the project is completed by the end of 2005. The joint venture is also studying building a new plant within the next five years.

Diversa signs with Fermic

Diversa has signed a long-term contract with Fermic, operator of an FDA-approved fermentation and synthesis facility outside Mexico City, that will provide enzyme capacity for Diversa and its partners. Diversa says the deal will increase its available capacity to a level sufficient for making enzymes worth $100 million per year. The two firms have worked together since 2002, with Fermic providing Diversa capacity to make phytase enzymes for partnerships with Danisco and Syngenta.

Eastman exec heads venture-capital group

The National Venture Capital Association has formed a subgroup for corporate investors--the corporate venture group (CVG)--to help accelerate innovation and growth through successful strategic venturing. Mark Klopp, managing director of Eastman Chemical's Eastman Ventures unit, has been elected chairman of the CVG advisory board. Eastman Ventures was formed in 1999 to provide a new avenue for growth and innovation at the company.


Lubrizol Chairman and CEO William G. Bares, 62, will retire as CEO on April 26. President James L. Hambrick, 49, will be elected as president and CEO. Bares, who joined Lubrizol in 1963 as a process development engineer, will continue as chairman through the end of the year.

DuPont and Nanosys will jointly research the use of Nanosys' thin-film technology for electronics applications. Nanosys says its nanotechnology-enabled process avoids costly steps common to thin-film transistor manufacturing.

Dow Chemical has signed an agreement with German lamp maker Osram to supply light-emitting polymers for use in Osram's Pictiva line of displays. The deal includes a flexible pricing structure that allows Dow to share the risks and benefits of the display industry.

Wacker-Chemie is planning an initial public offering of its Siltronic silicon wafer business. Siltronic, which recently opened a $550 million semiconductor wafer plant near Dresden, Germany, reportedly expects to raise $750 million.

Monsanto and Syngenta have granted each other royalty-free cross-licenses to resolve a dispute involving technology to create transgenic broad-leaved crops bred for insect protection and herbicide tolerance. The agreement ends both a patent dispute and a lawsuit brought by Syngenta.

BOC will supply fluorine gas to LG.Philips' thin-film transistor liquid-crystal display plant in Gumi, South Korea. Fluorine will be generated on-site and used in place of perfluorocarbons such as nitrogen trifluoride for cleaning chemical vapor deposition chambers.

BASF will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a $55 million class-action settlement imposed by the Minnesota Supreme Court relating to the sale of Poast and Poast Plus herbicide. Farmers contend that they were overcharged because BASF essentially sold the same chemical at different prices.

Serono has acquired exclusive rights to InDex Pharmaceuticals' Kappaproct, currently in Phase II clinical trials for ulcerative colitis. InDex will receive an initial fee and potential milestone payments. If Kappaproct is approved worldwide for at least one indication, InDex could receive $35 million plus royalties on sales.


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