Spanish drugmaker Almirall is buying US-based dermatology group Aqua Pharmaceuticals in deal worth up to $400 million, in a move designed to springboard the firm into the all-important US market.

The Barcelona-based group said the move not only provides it with access to the world's largest dermatology arena, but also offers the potential to leverage its own products in the country in future.

Aqua has "a proven track record of achieving both scale and quality of operations," Almirall said, and noted it is "very keen to engage the current management team, with their wealth of experience and knowledge in the US market". 

The move also provides Almirall with greater therapeutic and geographic diversification, "with no single disease area or country estimated to generate more than 30% of revenues" in the next financial year, it noted. 

Aqua has a portfolio of well-known growing prescription brands in acne, steroid-responsive dermatoses, seborrheic dermatitis, actinic keratosis and atopic dermatitis, and is expected to make sales of about $127 million for 2013.

Deal terms

Under the terms of the deal, the Spanish group will acquire Aqua for an upfront cash fee of $305 million, as well as an additional upfront payment of $22.6 million related to amortisation of certain long-term tax assets. 

In addition, further payments of up to $75 million could be made if certain regulatory and commercial milestones are met during 2014 and 2015. 

The acquisition, which still has to clear certain regulatory hurdles, will be financed with debt, it said.

Just a few weeks ago Almirall announced the loss of around 250 jobs in its domestic market, citing the contracting pharmaceutical market in Spain and the region's lack of near-term growth prospects as primary reasons for the move.