CSL, on an expansion sweep, opens operations in Russia

CSL CEO Paul Perreault

Australia's CSL has been expanding around the world and now has taken its U.S.-based blood plasma business, CSL Behring, into Russia. It is following other pharma companies that are looking for growth there.

The company said today it has opened operations in Moscow, and is looking for ways to partner up with the government on projects there. CEO Paul Perreault said it may be possible to transfer CSL Behring's plasma collection technology to Russia, according to a statement, and added he can see a point at which the firm might set up some of its plasma collection technology in Russia, and even manufacturing there.

CSL Behring makes protein-based therapies for the treatment of bleeding disorders like hemophilia, immune deficiencies, inherited respiratory disease and hereditary angioedema. Perreault said having an office there will allow the company to get a better feel for just what Russia needs. He noted that Russia's per capita use of immunoglobulins is 10 to 20 times lower than in the U.S. and some European countries, an indication that opportunity abounds.

Many other drugmakers have been in Russia for some time. Novo Nordisk ($NVO) and AstraZeneca ($AZN), for example, this year both opened local manufacturing operations. That will allow them to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin's insistence that those companies that want to profit from his country's growth had better be prepared to invest and transfer technology there.

But Russia is not as appealing as it was just a few years ago. In the past year, its economy had been beaten down by falling oil prices and by three rounds of financial sanctions the West has imposed for Russia's involvement in fighting in Ukraine. The average income in Moscow this year is forecast to run $900 a month, down from a peak of $1,700 in 2013. The political turmoil even led Germany's Fresenius last year to drop out of a partnership with Russia's Binnopharm to manufacture products there.

CSL has been expanding the other part of its business as well, which makes vaccines. In August it completed its $275 million purchase of Novartis' ($NVS) flu vaccine business. With that deal CSL became the world's second-largest flu vaccine supplier behind Sanofi ($SNY). CSL has renamed the expanded unit CSL Seqirus.

- here's the release