Takeda closing in on sale of Wako chemicals unit


The first round of bidding for Takeda Pharmaceutical's majority stake in Wako Pure Chemicals closed this week, with a number of companies and private equity funds reportedly in the running.

Takeda has said it wants to divest its 70% share in Wako to streamline its business--jumping on a trend currently sweeping through the pharma industry--and raise cash for investment in what is regarded as a somewhat lackluster pipeline. 

A Reuters report suggests there are at least three bidders in the running for the chemicals business, including Japanese conglomerate Hitachi and private equity firms Carlyle Group and Permira, predicting Takeda could net almost $1 billion from the sale. 

Takeda's partner in the Wako venture, Fujifilm Holdings, is also said to be is looking to take control of the unit as part of a drive to increase its medical business, but this could not be confirmed at press time. 

Wako--which specializes in laboratory chemicals and clinical diagnostic reagents--is a privately-held company, so none of the bidders mentioned in association with the sale are obliged to comment on the process. 

Japan's largest pharma company, Takeda has been busily shedding assets of late, agreeing to sell its respiratory business to AstraZeneca for $575 million, ducking out of a partnership with U.S. firm Orexigen on obesity drug Contrave (naltrexone/bupropion), and returning rights to fulranumab and trebananib to Amgen. It has also unveiled plans to spin out biotech companies focused on discovery in specific disease fields.

Meanwhile, Takeda has also bolstered its business in some areas, notably by creating of a joint venture with Teva to tap into the rapidly-growing generic drug market in Japan.

Since taking the helm of Takeda last year, CEO Christophe Weber and new R&D director Andy Plump have been narrowing Takeda's focus to three core areas--cancer, central nervous system and gastrointestinal drugs plus vaccines--and preparing to exit others, including specialty cardiovascular.

Under the new management team, Takeda pledged at a strategy event in June to invest in rebuilding its pipeline via new partnerships and acquisitions, and restructure what Plump recently described as a "greatly fragmented" R&D setup around two main hubs in Japan and the Boston area. 

Takeda has already followed through with some new deals. In recent weeks it has added to its GI pipeline with no fewer than three new programs: a stem cell therapy for anal fistulas partnered with TiGenix; a gastric motility agent licensed from Theravance and a drug candidate from Altos targeted at gastroparesis.

- read the Reuters report here

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