GlaxoSmithKline has moved to expand its business in Latin America and bought Argentina’s Laboratorios Phoenix.

The UK major is paying $253 million in cash to get hold of Phoenix and a broad portfolio of branded generics covering therapeutic areas including cardiovascular, gastroenterology, metabolic and urology. It will also get a manufacturing facility near Buenos Aires and an established primary care salesforce.

Phoenix reported sales of about £70 million last year and it is currently ranked number eight in the Argentine pharmaceutical market, according to IMS figures. GSK Argentina’s turnover reached £100 million in 2009 across all its businesses, £56 million of which were pharmaceuticals, putting it 14th.

Combined, GSK Argentina and Phoenix would currently rank third on the Argentine pharma list though they will stay as two separate legal entities. Abbas Hussain, president for emerging markets at GSK, said the deal “is an important step forward in our strategy to grow our business in Latin America; a key group of emerging markets “.

He added that by acquiring Phoenix, “we will rapidly expand our presence in the fast-growing Argentine market”. IMS figures state that the country is the eighth largest in the emerging markets, with a value of $3 billion, and the third highest growth rate at 22%.

The deal comes a month after GSK agreed to buy a 9.9% stake in South Korea’s Dong-A Pharmaceuticals for £73.9 million.

Benlysta filed in USA
Meantime, days after a submission in Europe, GlaxoSmithKline and Human Genome Sciences’ investigational lupus drug Benlysta (belimumab) has been filed with regulators in the USA.

HGS confirmed it has submitted a Biologics License Application to the US Food and Drug Administration for Benlysta for reducing disease activity in adult patients with autoantibody-positive systemic lupus erythematosus. If approved, it will be the first new drug for lupus in over 50 years.

Earlier this week, GSK filed a marketing authorisation application for Benlysta with the European Medicines Agency.

US job cuts
Also, the Wall Street Journal has quoted a GSK spokeswoman as saying that 700 sales and marketing employees, and related support staff, have taken buyout offers in recent months in the USA.

Other jobs are expected to go but the spokeswoman declined to give a total figure to the newspaper. She did say that the cuts are affecting “a variety of different positions in the US pharma commercial staff.”