Bristol-Myers Squibb is continuing its policy of shedding non-core assets by selling the rights to certain over-the-counter products in the Asia-Pacific region and its Indonesian unit to Japan’s Taisho Pharmaceutical Co.

Taisho will acquire the rights to OTC products sold primarily in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, including the painkillers Tempra and Counterpain, and a 97.8% stake in B-MS Indonesia. The Tokyo-based group will pay $310 million ($160 million for the products, $150 million for the Indonesia business) and the deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Dieter Weinand, president, intercontinental at B-MS, said the divestiture is a part of the firm’s “strategic transformation into a more focused next-generation biopharma company”. He added that the firm is “looking closely at its geographic and manufacturing footprint to align more closely to the scale and size of a biopharma company”.

Mr Weinand added that the Taisho deal is the seventh in a series of transactions that fit in with the aforementioned strategy. B-MS sold its OTC business in Japan to Lion Corp in June 2007 and, more recently, its branded generics business in five Middle East countries to GlaxoSmithKline. Last year, GSK bought B-MS’ Egyptian mature products business and its operations in Pakistan.

Taisho said that the deal will allow it to enter the Asian OTC drug business “in earnest” and B-MS Indonesia’s manufacturing facilities could become its future production centre for the region. It also plans to establish a company “in a city such as Singapore or Kuala Lumpur” to manage the entire Asian
business.