GlaxoSmithKline is continuing with the strategy of increasing its presence in emerging markets by buying UCB’s product portfolio in a number of Asian Pacific, African and Latin American countries, as well as the Middle East.

Under the terms of the deal, which is expected to be completed in late March, GSK will acquire “several pharmaceutical brands in a number of disease areas”, in certain countries, including the epilepsy blockbuster Keppra (levetiracetam), allergy drugs Xyzal (levocetirizine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine). UCB noted that the agreement covers more than 50 operations and represents 3%-4% of the company's revenue forecasts of at least 3.3 billion euros for 2008.

However the Belgian drugmaker stressed that the deal does not involve its operations in Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Korea and Mexico, which UCB considers to be "strategic emerging markets." It also does not include the firm’s new core products such as Vimpat (lacosamide), Neupro (rotigotine) and Cimzia (certolizumab pegol).

UCB chief executive Rich Doliveux said that the link-up is “a win-win agreement”. He claimed that it is consistent with UCB’s strategy, outlined in the SHAPE programme, of focusing on central nervous system and immunology, “while GSK acquires assets which fit with its growth and diversification strategy”.

Abbas Hussain, president of emerging markets at GSK, said the acquisition will strengthen and expand the UK drug major’s product portfolio in these countries, “particularly in the areas of epilepsy and respiratory.”

The deal is the latest in a number of agreements that GSK has signed of late in expanding its presence outside of the traditionally strong markets in Europe and the USA. In July 2008, a pact was signed with South Africa’s Aspen and its Indian joint venture partner Strides Arcolabs to sell branded generics in emerging markets and more recently GSK has bought the Egyptian mature products business from Bristol-Myers Squibb and acquired the latter’s operations in Pakistan.