Independently-owned Laboratorios Almirall is making final preparations in its application to list some of its shares on the Spanish stock exchange and has appointed Morgan Stanley as global coordinator.

In an interview with PharmaTimes World News, Eduardo Sanchiz, Almirall’s chief executive for corporate development and finance, said that between 25%-30% of the firm’s shares will be listed, while the remainder will stay in the hands of chief executive Jorge Gallardo, his brother Antonio and the entrepreneur Daniel Bravo Andreu. The brothers control 89.4% of Almirall and Mr Bravo holds the rest.

Explaining the rationale behind the listing, which sees the Santander bank acting as both bookrunner of the Spanish retail offering and joint lead manager of the institutional tranche and Rothschild and ABN AMRO Rothschild giving financial advice, Mr Sanchiz said that it will bring more liquidity to the stock, provide extra funds to support its R&D efforts and give the firm even greater visibility on international markets. He added that it is still too early to say how much Almirall is looking to raise with the listing.

Although it is keen to bring in more investors from abroad, Almirall already has a presence in around 100 countries and has its own affiliates in France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Belgium and Mexico, as well as Spain. However, it is looking to expand even more and the funds raised from the listing will help the firm get an exciting new treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease onto the market.

Eklira is jewel in Almirall’s crown

That drug, Eklira (aclidinium bromide), is being developed with Forest Laboratories of the USA, which made a $60 million upfront payment last year to get access to the treatment. It is currently in Phase III trials, having presented some very impressive Phase II data, and Mr Sanchiz noted that Almirall is currently negotiating with potential partners for the Japanese market. As for Europe, the company has its own strong sales force in a number of states to sell the drug itself but will take a country-by-country approach which may involve new partners.

The COPD market is vast and the deal with Forest seems a sound one given the latter’s marketing expertise in the USA. Analysts believe that Almirall will soon be in a position to challenge Boehringer Ingelheim's blockbuster Spiriva (tiotropium bromide) for the number one spot in COPD.

However, Eklira is not the only high-profile drug that Almirall is involved with at the moment as it has a deal with GW Pharmaceuticals to market the latter’s cannabinoid medicine Sativex (tetrahydrocannabinol plus cannabidiol) in Europe (excluding the UK). The treatment, which is already approved in Canada, was filed in Europe last September to relieve spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis.

Nevertheless, Mr Sanchiz noted that Almirall’s real strength lies in innovation. Unaudited sales for 2006 were around 783 million euros, 4% up on the previous year, and half of that came from the company’s own products, notably the antacid Almax (almagate), the antihistamine Ebastel (ebastine) and the migraine drug Almogran (almotriptan). It also recently inaugurated a major R&D facility in Barcelona and as its new products move ever closer to market, Almirall’s share offering is likely to prove a popular one. By Kevin Grogan