Glaxo CEO likes sub-$2B Indian deals, dislikes M&A rules

Of course GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) is shopping around in India. The U.K.-based drugmaker is among the Big Pharma firms most interested in boosting revenue by expanding in emerging markets. Still, hearing CEO Andrew Witty (photo) specify that he's looking for deals as big as $2 billion has pharma-watchers in India buzzing.

"India is clearly on the radar," Witty told The Times of London in Mumbai, after a brief sojourn in the country that included a keynote speech to the domestic pharma association. "I would love to buy something in India."

But Witty has some conditions: No overpriced deals, no big M&A. Just bolt-on deals ranging from $500 million to $2 billion. "We already have an enviable brand in India, so there is no need for us to pay a strategic premium," Witty said during the interview. "Others might need to do that, but we don't."

India has one of the fastest-growing drug markets on the globe, with double-digit sales increases expected over the next several years. And it's already worth around $9 billion. That kind of growth can't help but attract Big Pharma, which is scrambling to replace sales lost to generic competition--and to make up for anemic growth and pricing pressures in its old standby markets of U.S. and Europe. Multinational drugmakers have inked a host of buyouts and partnerships in recent years--so much so that the Indian government is weighing some limitations on buyouts, or at least increased oversight of M&A.

Witty, obviously, isn't in favor; he called the idea an "extremely retrograde step" that would put a big damper on foreign investment. Foreign drugmakers "are just not going to invest here" with those sorts of restrictions, Witty told the Times. "Why would you?"

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