Lonza says it is negotiating deal to buy Capsugel

Lonza says it is negotiating with KKR to buy contract capsule maker Capsugel.

Swiss CMO Lonza, which has been searching for a game-changing M&A deal—having let Catalent get away—may have found one in contractor Capsugel.

Lonza today acknowledged (PDF) it is in negotiations with the the investment firm KKR regarding the potential acquisition of Capsugel. KKR bought Capsugel from Pfizer in 2011 for $2.38 billion.  

“Lonza confirms that it has expressed a strong interest in this successful company as it would fit perfectly with Lonza’s healthcare continuum strategy and strengthen its position as leading supplier to a number of important healthcare markets. A successful acquisition would be value adding and be within Lonza’s stated acquisition criteria,” the statement said.

Capsugel, which sells both empty two-piece capsules and finished dose products, has 13 manufacturing sites around the world, three R&D facilities, and claims 4,000 customers. That would be added to Lonza's 11 contract development and manufacturing sites worldwide. A deal could top $5 billion, sources told Reuters. Lonza cautioned in its statement that there is no guarantee an acquisition will be completed.

Sources tell The Wall Street Journal that KKR has been holding an auction for the company and that Lonza is the leading candidate, but that another company could yet snatch it away from Lonza. Reports last spring said KKR was looking to sell the capsule maker and that companies checking it out included Becton Dickinson, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Bayer and Catalent.

Catalent’s name actually came up in a similar context with Lonza’s when it was reported some months back that the Swiss CMO was trying to buy the Somerset, New Jersey, company. However, sources told FiercePharmaManufaturing two months ago that a deal did not materialize.

Catalent CFO Matt Walsh told investors in August that Catalent expects M&A to play a part in its growth as the market consolidates. A month later it bought San Diego-based Pharmtek to get spray drying technology, then just a couple of weeks ago made its own move into capsule manufacturing with an agreement to buy Canada-based Accucaps, a developer and manufacturer of over-the-counter, high potency and conventional pharmaceutical softgels.

For several years now there has been a mantra in the contract manufacturing space of "bulk up or face being bought out." Patheon, which hooked up with DSM Pharmaceutical Products in 2014, spent a year pulling off deals to create a multibillion-dollar CDMO operation. Durham, North Carolina-based Patheon recently added to its manufacturing capacity with a deal to buy a U.S. API plant from Roche. Sweden’s Recipharm has been making acquisitions, including a $205 million deal earlier this year for India’s Kemwell.  

Editor's Note: The story was updated with information about Catalent's recently announced deal to buy softgel maker Accucaps. 

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