Watson Pharmaceuticals has acquired Greek generics drugmaker Specifar Pharmaceuticals for 400 million euros in cash as part of its strategy to expand in Europe.

Privately-owned Specifar, which had revenues of around 85 million euros in 2010, operates two core businesses. It has 400 marketing authorisations licensed to third parties for sale in 36 countries, predominantly in Europe, and eight products currently filed in the European Union. This third-party development business accounts for more than 70% of  revenues.

Specifar is also in the top five in the Greek branded-generic market, with a portfolio of more than 30 products, sold through a 170-strong sales forces.  It also sells products in Greece under the Alet Pharmaceuticals brand through a separate 55-rep force. 

Watson noted that Specifar currently manufactures generics in a modern plant located in Athens with capacity for one billion doses annually, while a new state-of-the-art facility is currently under construction just outside of the city. This will provide capacity to manufacture an additional three-five billion doses, "further enhancing Watson's gobal supply chain".

Paul Bisaro, Watson's chief executive, said "the strategic significance of this combination is substantial" as his firm "will now have a powerful product development capability recognised throughout the industry for its strong track record of successfully launching products in key European markets, supported by an accomplished R&D and regulatory capability". He added that Specifar's "management expertise and existing business relationships will support Watson's current and future commercial expansion in European countries".

Generic Nexium in pipeline

Mr Bisaro noted that "Greece's generic product utilisation is currently one of the lowest in Europe, providing us with a significant opportunity".  He also pointed out that Specifar's pipeline includes a generic version of AstraZeneca's antiulcerant blockbuster Nexium (esomeprazole), which could launch in certain European markets as early as the fourth quarter of 2011.

Indeed, as part of the deal, in additional to the 400 million euros, Specifar's former owners may receive up to an extra 40 million euros linked to sales of a generic Nexium product during its first five years on the market.