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Johnson Matthey weighs its future in drug chemicals

by Rick Mullin
April 17, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 14


The catalyst company Johnson Matthey says it is undertaking a “strategic review” of its pharmaceutical chemical business, a sign that it may seek a buyer for the operation. Matthey has been putting its resources into battery materials and hydrogen technology. The unit, branded Johnson Matthey Health, produces both generic and custom active pharmaceutical ingredients, specializing in controlled substances. Analysts at the investment firm Jefferies Financial Group say in a research note that they expect a sale of the business and value it at about $2.75 billion. The fine chemical consultant Jan Ramakers notes in an e-mail to C&EN that the move is “a bit of a shift,” given Matthey’s perceived commitment to the business at the time of a company-wide rebranding effort in 2017. “Having said that, there is no logical reason for them to have a fine chemical/pharma/opioid operation,” he writes. Ramakers says there may be potential buyers interested in increasing their share of the opioid market, but he’s perplexed by Jefferies’s estimate of the business’s value considering its modest sales. Matthey reported sales of $164 million for the unit in the 6 months ending last September.


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