KKR bets $200M on India's Gland Pharma

There is growth in manufacturing sterile injectable drugs and a trend toward using prefilled syringes. India's Gland Pharma does both, and investment group KKR finds that an enticing proposition. KKR India has taken a minority stake in the drugmaker, investing $200 million, buying out the entire stake held by Evolvence India Life Sciences Fund.

KKR claims that Hyderabad-based Gland was the first Indian company to get an FDA approval for an injectable drug, something it pulled off in 2003. "Gland Pharma has a track record of strong financial performance as well as long-standing relationships with Indian and international pharmaceutical companies and we believe there is significant potential for it to grow these partnerships even further," said KKR India CEO Sanjay Nayar.

Gland manufactures active pharmaceutical ingredients and generic drugs for the Indian market as well as export. Gland executives said the investment would help it expand its manufacturing capacity and development work for drug applications. Gland has a key position in India with low molecular weight heparin and some other cardiovascular and orthopedic niche products. It also markets parenteral products along with Germany's Vetter, which is also an investor in the company. Gland Pharma Founder-Chairman P V N Raju said the Vetter family had inspired Gland Pharma "in the niche field of pre-filled syringes."

Putting their injectable drugs into prefilled syringes is becoming a way for some drugmakers to set their products apart. Becton Dickinson ($BDX), already a maker of prefilled syringes, in March opened a $100 million drug manufacturing plant in North Carolina to tap the growth in generic injectables. Its angle is to charge a premium for the the syringe-filled products as safer and time-saving. Jordan-based Hikma recently signed a $40 million contract with York, PA-based Unilife to provide Hikma with a minimum of 175 million syringes next year for an initial 20 generic injectable drugs. And Gujarat-based Indian drugmaker Roselabs Group this year announced it would build a Rs 400 crore ($68 million) production facility to make prefilled syringes for the Indian market, where it said the use of prefilled syringes is only beginning to gain popularity. It also will make products for other drugmakers.

KKR noted that Gland Pharma has pioneered prefilled syringe technology in India. It said the $200 million investment is its largest in an Indian pharmaceutical company.

- here's the announcement