Astellas staffs up for China sales drive

Big Pharma has been jostling for market share in China. Now, the likes of Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Bayer will have still more competition in that fast-growing market in the form of Japan's Astellas Pharma.

In its annual report on strategy, Astellas unveiled plans to hire at least 300 sales folks in China, aiming to double its sales there by March 2015. And that push into China will be key, because the company is depending on it to help meet some ambitious sales-growth goals. Namely, 17 percent growth in five years.

Astellas is aiming for global revenue of $12 billion (1.1 trillion yen) by 2015, up from $10.5 billion (940 billion yen) this year. It's aiming for operating profits of $2.68 billion (240 billion yen), up from $1.7 billion (152 billion yen) for the current fiscal year. (This year's profits happened to be 19 percent off last year's results, by the way.)

Other critical elements to its "mid-term management plan" include a strong effort to grow sales of its transplant-rejection drug Prograf in Asian markets, including Japan, to help offset sales erosion from generic competition in the U.S. And then there's its acquisition of OSI Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OSIP): Revenue from the cancer drug Tarceva is expected to boost Astellas once the deal closes, but pipeline meds aren't factored into this five-year business plan.

- see the report from Astellas (.pdf)
- check out the Bloomberg story
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- read the Wall Street Journal article (sub. req.)