Aspen feeds its global appetite with 2nd deal in a week

South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare last year said it had aspirations to expand into Europe. In the last week it has gone after that plan with a vengeance, announcing two deals that would give it a footprint in the U.S. and Europe and products that are sold globally.

The drugmaker, which claims it is the world's ninth-largest generic drug manufacturer, said today it will buy an API facility from ($MRK) in the U.S., along with one API facility and parts of two others in the Netherlands. It buys those as part of a $1 billion, multi-layered deal that also includes buying 11 products from Merck, known as MSD outside of the U.S. Those include such products as hormone replacement treatments Ovestin, Sustanon and Metrigen; the anticoagulant Orgaran; and contraceptives Gracial and Novial. The combo transaction is slated to close Oct. 1. Aspen said some of the drugs should feed sales in Latin America and the Asian Pacific, markets into which it's has been expanding.

This deal comes about a week after GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) said it was in discussions with Aspen to sell it its older thrombosis drug brands, Arixtra and Fraxiparine. That deal includes a plant in France. In fact, there is a connection between the two deals. Aspen said today that the Merck API business manufacturers heparin, the API used in Fraxiparine.

The two-continent deals build on moves Aspen was already making outside of South Africa. In 2010, it paid about $880 million to buy the generics business of Australia-based Sigma Pharmaceuticals. Last year, the South African drugmaker agreed to buy the rights to 25 GSK products no longer promoted in Australia for $268 million. They included such common treatments as herpes fighter Valtrex and antibiotic Amoxil. GSK owns a nearly 20% stake in Aspen.

Merck and Aspen put out sketchy details in February saying they were working on a deal for Aspen to buy the API operations in the Netherlands. They did not, however, hint at the breadth of the proposal. Last week, GSK, which owns a significant piece of Aspen, said it was negotiating to sell it Arixtra and Fraxiparine, a deal that would include a plant in Notre-Dame-de-Bondeville, France with about 1,000 employees.

- here's the release