Icelandic pharmaceutical company Actavis has continued its strategy of growth through acquisition in the European generic drugs market, buying Romania’s Sindan for 147.5 million euros ($178m) in cash.

The purchase comes shortly after Actavis’ audacious, $1.6 billion hostile takeover bid for Croatian drugmaker Pliva, which the latter has rejected as undervaluing the business. If that deal goes through, Actavis would rise from fourth to third place in the global generics market.

Sindan specialises in the manufacture and distribution of oncology products, and Actavis said the purchase would give it a marketing and distribution network in six countries, with seven new entries planned in 2006, as well as low-cost manufacturing and development facilities from which it can leverage a cost efficient platform to drive future growth and expansion.

It will also boost its position in the rapidly-expanding oncology market, which is expected to be the fastest-growing pharmaceutical segment over the next three years. There is no overlap between the two companies and Sindan's strong oncology product portfolio complements Actavis' strengths in oral solid-dose products, said the Icelandic firm.

Actavis adds that it will become one of the leading players in the Romanian market, which is expected to grow faster than most other European regions in the coming years. This growth rate has also attracted Indian drugmaker Ranbaxy, which has just snapped up number one Romanian drugmaker Terapia for $324 million.

Earlier, Ranbaxy explained its interest in Romania, saying it is the fastest growing pharmaceutical market in Central & Eastern Europe with an approximate annual growth of 34% from 2002 to 2005, compared to growth of 24% for the region as a whole. The high growth is coupled with a large market opportunity, as Romania is the second largest country by population in CEE.

Actavis has also recently acquired Hungary's Keri Pharma, Bulgaria's Higia, Denmark's Ophtha and, in the USA, Amide Pharmaceuticals and Alpharma's generics business.

Sindan is expected to generate revenues of around 80 million euros for the full year 2006 and 100 million euros in 2007, with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of about 22% and 23% for the two years, respectively.