Cipla, Aspen eye joint excursion in Australia

Indian generics specialist Cipla reportedly has hooked up with one of South Africa's biggest drugmakers for an Australian expedition. Aspen Pharmacare, which also happens to be part-owned by GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), would tap Cipla's drug supply to expand down under, the Business Standard reports, citing sources.

The partnership would follow two key Australian deals for Aspen. First, Aspen nabbed Sigma Pharmaceuticals' generic drugs business in late 2010 for $800 million, becoming Australia's largest manufacturer of prescription drugs in the process. And last week, the South African drugmaker agreed to buy the rights to 25 GSK products no longer promoted in Australia. They include such common treatments as herpes fighter Valtrex and antibiotic Amoxil. Price: $268 million.

Word is that Aspen wants to expand its Australian product portfolio further, and wants Cipla to help. The Indian company could develop generic drugs that would in turn be launched by Aspen's Australian business.

Australia is neither a fast-growing nor a dominant pharma market, and in the past has been dominated by multinational players. Government price cuts have taken their toll. But growth in the country could be especially fruitful now for low-cost manufacturers, as big drugs come off patent, an analyst told the Business Standard. Plus, the government has been pushing for more generics use, and there aren't many domestic generics players.

- read the Business Standard story