Nycomed is close to making an acquisition in Asia as part of a strategy of strengthening its already-considerable presence in the emerging markets.

Speaking to PharmaTimes World News last week at the European Respiratory Society meeting in Barcelona, chief executive Hakan Bjorklund noted that the company is strong in regions such as Latin America (especially Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela) and Russia and the other former Soviet Union markets, but he is interested in going further afield. He highlighted south-east Asia as an area, and China in particular, as a clear priority.

So much so that Mr Bjorklund revealed an acquisition in China is very much on the cards and while declining to give any specific details noted that  the process is well advanced. Nycomed is "still relatively small" there and "we are looking for a stronger foothold in that market", he said, noting that buying an established firm in China will provide a solid platform for launching new products there.

It is not only Asia that the privately-owned Swiss-headquartered group is targeting and Mr Bjorklund noted that the Middle East/North Africa region is of interest. In particular, he spoke of the potential offered by the Algerian market.

He stressed that partnering, and thus sharing risk, is a cornerstone of Nycomed's strategy, adding that local knowledge  is vital. Mr Bjorklund highlighted the successful joint venture Nycomed has with Zydus Cadila in India, while it has bagged a couple of impressive partners (Merck & Co in Canada and certain European countries and Forest Laboratories in the USA) for Daxas (roflumilast), its new once-daily tablet for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

At the ERS meeting, Nycomed unveiled more new data showing that the rate of frequent exacerbations was consistently lower and the time to exacerbation was significantly longer with Daxas than with placebo. It also showed the greatest benefit of the selective phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) enzyme inhibitor was seen in patients with a history of frequent exacerbations, ie two or more per year.

Much of the buzz around the Barcelona meeting was about Daxas and researchers and analysts believe it will be a blockbuster. It has just been launched in Germany and Guido Oelkers, executive vice president, commercial operations, told PharmaTimes World News that doctors and pulmonologists have been impressed. Pricewise, it is in line with established COPD treatments, notably Pfizer/Boehringer Ingelheim's Spiriva (tiotropium).

It seems likely that Daxas will transform the fortunes of Nycomed which since its acquisition of Altana Pharma in 2007 has grown hugely, netting revenues of 3.20 billion euros last year. It has been eyeing an initial public offering for some time now, though plans have been hampered by the economic environment, and with Daxas starting strongly, perhaps the time is right.

Mr Bjorklund would not be drawn on the timing of an IPO for Nycomed, which some analysts have valued in the past as being worth around 10 billion euros. He said "we could do it tomorrow but is the market ready? No one really knows".

There is no hurry, either, he concluded, as the company's two largest shareholders, Nordic Capital and DLJ Merchant Banking, are long-term backers.