Qualicaps expanding plant as Mitsubishi takes ownership

Qualicaps is expanding a North Carolina plant.--Courtesy of Qualicaps.

Capsule maker Qualicaps is moving ahead with an expansion at its plant in North Carolina even as a new owner takes control of the company.

The capsule maker, which in December said it was being acquired by Japan's Mitsubishi, will invest $26 million to boost production at its plant in Whitsett, NC. The expansion is slated to happen over the next three years, adding 123 workers to the 500 already employed at the plant. Qualicaps is getting a $235,000 grant from the state, assuming it hits its job expansion goals and gets local assistance as well, according to the Office of the Governor of North Carolina.

The Carlyle Group ($CG) in December agreed to sell Qualicaps to Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings for about $650 million. The private equity group said when the deal was announced that everything should close in March. Mitsubishi says Qualicaps is complementary to its API manufacturing and other healthcare operations and that it believes its chemical expertise will allow it to improve Qualicaps' products. Mitsubishi noted at the time that Qualicaps has about 20% of the hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) market. The market for that kind of capsule is projected to see percentage growth in the double digits.

Carlyle bought Qualicaps, formerly known as Shionogi Qualicaps, from Shionogi & Co. in 2005 and has been building up the business; it claims Qualicaps is now the largest pharma capsule maker in Japan and the second largest in the world.

This was not the only deal in this corner of the market in the last year. Canada-based Patheon paid $225 million to buy Banner Pharmacaps, in the process picking up four more manufacturing operations, 1,200 more employees and a foothold in the rapidly growing Latin market.

- here's a release from the Governor's Office of North Carolina