Sanofi, Otsuka amp up their Turkish ambitions

Turkey's pharma market isn't as high-profile as the oft-celebrated China or India. But that doesn't mean foreign drugmakers aren't looking for ways to beef up their operations in the country. As one of the world's "pharmerging" markets, according to IMS Health, its growth prospects certainly outstrip the moribund Europe and sluggish U.S. And it's also becoming a production hub.

Just this week, in fact, two pharma companies unveiled new Turkish plans. Sanofi's ($SNY) generics maker Zentiva says it's preparing to shift most of its production to a plant in Turkey, the Hürriyet Daily News reports. The Turkish facility would turn out a host of products now made elsewhere, mostly for export to other countries, Zentiva President Jérôme Silvestre said.

"We will turn our facilities in Lüleburgaz into a production base for generic drugs by shifting the production of many drugs from facilities abroad to Turkey," Silvestre said (as quoted by Hurriyet).

Meanwhile, Japan's Otsuka Pharmaceuticals has been negotiating with Turkey-based Abdi Ibrahim on a joint venture. The country's Competition Board is reviewing Otsuka's application to partner with Abdi Ibrahim on production and distribution. "We plan to produce the drugs under Otsuka's umbrella in Turkey," Abdi Ibrahim Director Nezih Barut told local media.

These two developments follow another big foreign foray into Turkey earlier this year. Amgen ($AMGN) agreed in April to pay $700 million for the generics manufacturer Mustafa Nevzat.

Some Turkish industry leaders fear that foreign pharmas will end up controlling too much of the domestic business, including Abdi Ibrahim CEO Candan Karbagli. Her company has entertained offers to sell a minority stake, but rejects the idea of selling a majority position. "About 10 Turkish pharmaceutical firms have been acquired by foreigners in the last 10 years," Karbagli said at a recent conference. "This is the way [we all may be taken over], one by one."

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