Icelandic drugmaker Actavis, which lost out to Barr in a bidding war to acquire Croatian generics company Pliva in September, took some comfort from a deal to buy a majority stake in a Russian manufacturing concern yesterday.

Actavis, which wanted to join with Pliva to consolidate its position in Central and Eastern Europe, has earmarked 47 million euros to buy a controlling 51% stake in ZiO Zdorovye, a well-established Russian company that lies just outside the country’s top 10 drugmakers in terms of sales output, according to data provided by the Association of International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers.

Roughly half the investment, 23 million euros, will be used to fund the development of the business, said Actavis.

Although the world’s top pharmaceutical markets – North America, Western Europe and Japan – account for a massive 82% of world prescription drug sales last year, sluggish growth has forced companies to look to emerging markets, including Russia, in order to meet their growth targets.

Sales of pharmaceuticals in Russia have more than tripled since 2000, and it is now one of the fastest-growing drug markets in Europe, with sales growth of around 10% a year between 2006 and 2010, according to figures compiled by PharmaTimes by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Russia is Actavis’ seventh largest market, accounting for approximately 4% of annual sales, but having a local manufacturing arm will increase the company’s ability to bid for state hospital supply contracts.

“ZiO Zdorovje is recognised internationally as the owner of one of the best manufacturing plants in the Russian market,” said Actavis chief executive Robert Wessman, adding that the deal it “provides us with a local manufacturing presence, crucial for our continued growth in this market."