Stada, eyeing OTC expansion, circles Bristol-Myers’ French Upsa business: report

Stada is eyeing further expansion in the OTC sector, and buying BMS' Upsa could also bolster its presence in France. (Stada)

Bristol-Myers Squibb could soon find a buyer for its French consumer health business amid continuous consolidation in the sector.

German generics maker Stada, as well as private equity firms BC Partners, CVC Capital Partners and PAI Partners, have put down their offers for the business, known as Upsa, Reuters reported, citing multiple sources familiar with the matter.

The business could potentially fetch about €1 billion ($1.15 billion)—a valuation lower than the newswire’s previous report of €1.5 billion. Deutsche Bank and Jefferies were said to have been tapped to assist BMS in the bidding process, and Reuters’ sources said the bid submission deadline had passed on Oct. 5.

A BMS spokesperson told FiercePharma that no decisions on the future of Upsa have been made, echoing a statement made back in July when a sale was first rumored.

Over 1,500 people are currently employed by Upsa, which has three locations—including its head office—in France. Facing union pressure on any major restructuring following the sale, the deal might even land below €1 billion, one of the sources said.

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Others that had reportedly been approached include large consumer groups Procter & Gamble and Reckitt Benckiser, as well as U.S. pharmas Mylan, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, but none of them has shown a clear interest.

Upsa delivered €425 million in revenue last year, with 52% coming from France and 27% from other Western European countries. Acquired by BMS in 1994, it sells such drugs as analgesic products Dafalgan and Efferalgan, cold and flu drug Pervex and vitamin C, among others.

BMS in June announced a strategic review of the unit. Several options were laid on the table for consideration, including a potential sale, and according to the BMS spokesperson, the review is still in progress as no decisions have been made.

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For Stada, the Upsa unit could fit into its new growth strategy. After a tumultuous takeover by private equity players Bain Capital and Cinven that spurred top leadership changes, the company fleshed out its vision in the fourth quarter of 2017. It includes focusing more on biosimilars and efficient processes, as well as on international marketing of its OTC products.

Moving in that direction, the German company in June acquired EMEA rights to Janssen’s anti-dandruff shampoo Nizoral. 

“The transaction is one of the largest in recent years and underlines our aspiration to be one of the leading providers of OTC products in Europe,” Stada CEO Claudio Albrecht said in a statement at the time.

Upsa could also bolster Stada’s presence in France. Although France represents one of Stada’s largest market for generics income, the country doesn’t rank high for its OTC franchise, according to 2017 numbers.

The deal comes amid a flurry of consolidation in the consumer health. Earlier this year, Merck KGaA sold its consumer health unit to P&G for €3.4 billion and Novartis divested its stake in an OTC joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline, which itself is looking to sell off its Indian consumer products business.