Chinese heparin maker Hepalink buying U.S.-based SPL

Many Western drugmakers are buying, building or partnering to establish manufacturing facilities in China. But the reverse is possible, and Shenzhen Hepalink Pharmaceutical, one of China's largest raw heparin makers, has a deal to buy U.S. API maker Scientific Protein Laboratories.

Hepalink says it will acquire Waunakee, WI-based Scientific Protein Laboratories (SPL) in a deal valued at $337.5 million. Hepalink is one of the world's largest producers of heparin, and SPL is one of the largest commercial suppliers of heparin sodium USP, pancreatin USP, and pancrelipase USP, selling into the pharmaceutical, veterinary and food industries worldwide. It has manufacturing facilities in Waunakee and Sioux City, IA. SPL management is being kept, along with the company's 204 employees.

According to Dow Jones, Hepalink is buying SPL from private equity group American Capital, which bought an 87% stake in the company in 2006 for $135.66 million. American Capital also owns API maker Cambridge Major Laboratories, having paid $212 million last year to buy the Germantown, WI-based company.

Hepalink, in announcing the deal, emphasized its adherence to U.S. FDA standards. The U.S. zeroed in on Chinese heparin makers in 2008 after contaminated heparin marketed by Baxter International ($BAX) was tied to the deaths of 80 patients. Hepalink products were not among those identified as being involved in the problem. "After the acquisition, Hepalink will be able to further enhance the stability and safety of the supply of the heparin product raw materials, strengthen Hepalink's globally leading advantages in technology, processing techniques, quality and safety standards, and form a global heparin API manufacturing, R&D and distribution network for Hepalink," Hepalink CEO Li Li said in a statement.

SPL knows about FDA heparin concerns itself. In 2011, the API maker received an FDA warning letter criticizing it for not promptly investigating a complaint about a lot of its product that a drugmaker said might be contaminated. The company, however, responded to the FDA concerns quickly and received a closeout letter within months.

- here's the announcement
- read the Dow Jones coverage (sub. req.)