Quick change at the top for Shanghai Pharma as chairman quits after 3 months

The chairman of Shanghai Pharmaceuticals, Zhou Jie, has resigned just three months after taking on the role.

Zhou Jie took over the executive chairman role at China's second-largest drugmaker in May, replacing Lou Dingbo, who left citing personal reasons. Despite his short stay, the company insists he has "no disagreement with the board" and his departure is a result of competing work commitments.

Zhou also served as chairman and chief executive of Shanghai Pharma's parent company Shanghai Industrial Holdings Ltd, but has also resigned from those positions, according to notices filed with the Hong Kong stock exchange.

In a statement, Shanghai Pharma said it "would like to express its sincere gratitude to Zhou Jie for his invaluable contribution to the company during his tenure," add it would elect a new chairman "as soon as practicable in accordance with statutory procedures." In the meantime, the company's president, Cho Man, will take over Zhou's duties.

Zhou's departure was announced on the same day Shanghai Pharma reported a 5% rise in pharmaceutical revenues to 6.41 billion yuan ($962 million), with biologic drugs adding 207 million yuan and traditional Chinese medicines bringing in 2.2 billion yuan.

The star of the show was its pharmaceutical distribution business, however, which helps foreign multinational pharma companies operate in the highly fragmented Chinese market. The division saw revenues climb nearly 19% to 53.4 billion yuan. 

Meanwhile an online pharmacy business set up last year--Yiyao Health--helped retail pharma sales climb 7% to 2.49 billion yuan, tapping into China's decision in 2015 to allow online sales of prescription drugs in addition to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.  China is encouraging the growth of retail pharmacy to help break a stranglehold by hospitals on the medicines distribution market in the country which makes it harder to keep drug prices down. 

Shanghai Pharma also said it was making progress with plans to bring its own branded products to market, which along with acquisitions has been a key strategy for the group.

It has now filed for approval to start trials in China of an as-yet unnamed HER-2 inhibitor that the company says would compete with Roche's breast cancer therapies Herceptin and Perjeta. 

The new candidate adds to a portfolio of home-grown projects that also includes cancer drug deuteporfin, blood pressure therapy SPH3127 and SPH1188 for non-small cell lung cancer. Meanwhile, Shanghai Pharma also has two novel biologics in trials--a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor for rheumatoid arthritis and an anti-CD20 for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Plans for growth by acquisition have also gathered pace. Earlier this month, Shanghai Pharma expanded its consumer health business by taking a 60% stake in Australian vitamins maker Vitaco for around $141 million, with the remaining stake held by private equity partner Zeus Ltd. 

It also bolstered its traditional medicine business recently via a joint venture with Japan's Tsumura that will develop and distribute traditional Japanese Kampo herbal medicines for the Chinese market.

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