CSL completes purchase of Novartis' flu vaccine business

CSL CFO and Seqirus Chief Executive Gordon Naylor

As Novartis ($NVS) marks its exit from the vaccines space, Australia's CSL is raring and ready to go.

With the closing announced on Sunday of its $275 million purchase of Novartis' flu vaccine business, CSL is slated to become the world's second-largest flu vaccine supplier. It said on Friday that it secured the necessary approvals for the acquisition and worked through Sunday to finalize the deal.

With the deal done, CSL is forming a new unit, Seqirus, which will incorporate the company's existing flu vaccine subsidiary, bioCSL, and have a foothold in more than 20 countries with manufacturing facilities in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Australia. CSL's chief financial officer Gordon Naylor will lead the unit--which takes its name beginning in October--managing the integration and continuing to serve as CFO until a replacement is found.

In an interview with FierceVaccines, CSL CEO Paul Perreault said Novartis' flu vaccines business was an "extremely attractive" purchase because of the added capacity and technology the company offered. The acquisition will see CSL gain two plants, more than 1,000 employees and cell culture technology, all assets which give CSL "the global scale and product line that we can utilize to drive this business ahead," Perreault said.

CSL CEO Paul Perreault

In the short term, Naylor and other management will focus on the integration, but Perreault said he has big hopes beyond that.

"Long term, it's really about being the global leader in flu," he said. "It's great to be No. 2, but I am a bit competitive so I like to be No. 1 in the space that I'm in."

To get there, he added, Seqirus' capacity, speed to market and product portfolio will serve as the "differentiation for our business."

Novartis' divestiture marks its official exit from vaccines, a field that has troubled the Swiss pharma ever since its buyout of Chiron in 2006. Though it'll collect $275 million from the sale, it agreed to a $1.1 billion impairment charge when the deal was announced in October 2014. For remaining flu vaccines companies, the move will reshape the field and see a new player emerge near the top.

CSL will be trailing behind Sanofi ($SNY), which pulled in €1.17 billion ($1.29 billion) in flu vaccines sales last year and in July began shipping the first of more than 65 million flu vaccine doses to the United States for the upcoming season. Also in July, bioCSL and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) both started shipping to the U.S. and said they plan to increase the amount doses they deliver this year.

- here's the release