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GSK cashes in its stake in Africa's Aspen

Sells 28.2 million shares
GSK GlaxoSmithKline house

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has agreed to reduce its stake in Aspen Pharmacare but says it will maintain a "close relationship" with the South African company.

GSK is selling 28.2 million shares in Aspen, netting around £425m ($741m), which GSK said would be used for general corporate purposes. However, observers suggest the deal reduces GSK's stake from around 18.6 per cent to 12.4 per cent while the company retains a seat on the board.

The deal reverses a trend which has seen GSK grow ever closer to the South African firm in recent years as part of a push into emerging markets, while also providing a conduit for Aspen to expand its overseas business.

In 2009, GSK took a 16 per cent stake in Aspen, granting it the right to distribute GSK products in sub-Saharan Africa. GSK also handed over a German manufacturing facility along with marketing rights to eight international products.

Last year, Aspen took control of a GSK generic drugs unit in Australia, while in October it bought a GSK plant in France and thrombosis treatments Arixtra (fondaparinux sodium) and Fraxiparine (nadroparin) in a deal valued at $1.1bn.  

Those deals and others such as an alliance with Merck & Co have helped Aspen become Africa's biggest drugmaker with 6,000 employees and sales of around $1.9bn in the year ended June 30, up 27 per cent year-on-year. It now claims to be the ninth-largest generic drugmaker worldwide.

"GSK has a long and successful partnership with Aspen - and our investment in the company has grown in value significantly over time," said GSK's head of strategy David Redfern.

"Having assessed this investment we have now decided to realise some of this value without altering the basis of the partnership," he added.

The Financial Times suggested GSK wants to generate cash to protect earnings, although the company insisted the net profit on the disposal would not be included in core operating profit and core earnings per share in 2013.

Aspen's shares dipped nearly 4 per cent on news of the divestment.

Article by
Phil Taylor

21st November 2013

From: Sales

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