Toyama Chemical Co of Japan is the subject of a takeover bid worth around $1.44 billion by photography giant Fujifilm Holdings Corp as the latter looks to get a foothold in the pharmaceutical sector.

Fujifilm maybe best known for its cameras, but it also has a major presence in medical devices, selling endoscopes and digital x-rays. Furthermore, the purchaser seems to think that the pharma world may offer more benefits long-term than camera film now the digital age has well and truly dawned.

It is prepared to pay some 115 billion yen, or 880 yen per share (a premium that falls just under 40% of Toyama’s current price), to get hold of a 78% stake in the firm. Taisho Pharmaceutical Co holds the other 22% of Toyama and has agreed to the deal, while keeping hold of its stake.

In addition, Fujifilm will buy a further 20 billion yen in new shares issued by Toyama in a private placement, scheduled to take place before the end of this month. Taisho will also buy 10 billion yen of new shares.

Fujifilm chief executive Shigetaka Komori told reporters at a news conference that through the deal his firm hopes to boost sales of medical products to one trillion yen in 10 years from the current level of 300 billion yen. Perhaps the most interesting piece in Toyama’s pipeline is its bird flu drug candidate, T-705, and Mr Komori said that commercialising T-705 “as soon as possible and establishing a stable supply system is our social responsibility”. A launch is pencilled in for 2009.

Taisho to buy 62% stake in Biofermin
The news came just as Taisho itself announced that it will pay up to 27.3 billion yen to take a 62% stake in Biofermin Pharmaceutical Co, which specialises in gastrointestinal drugs.

Taisho said it would pay 3,620 yen per Biofermin share, an offer that represents a premium of around 23%. Investment fund TZCS, Biofermin's largest shareholder, has a 40% stake in the firm and has agreed to tender its shares.