Greek pharmaceutical firms attracting international interest


Greek pharmaceutical companies have repeatedly been targeted for acquisition by major foreign-based pharmaceuticals or investment funds in the last decade. Firms that make products for third parties and those with notable research and development departments have proved the most attractive to international buyers. The two biggest deals to date added up to 1 billion euros, consultants who participated in the transactions tell Kathimerini.

Furthermore, foreign state-controlled entities have been scanning the local market either to buy out companies or to strike strategic agreements or partnerships. This category includes corporations from Russia as well as China. The capacity of production with competitive pricing aimed both at the domestic and the European markets is one reason, while two more are the high quality of services offered and Greece’s geographical proximity to major markets and commercial routes.

This is taking place in the context of an international trend observed over the last few decades whereby major pharmaceutical groups outsource the production of drugs to third parties to reduce their costs and focus on research and new drug development instead.

The first major deal in the Greek sector took place in 2011, when New York-listed Watson Pharmaceuticals bought out local firm Specifar for 400 million euros. Watson wanted to buy Specifar in order to concede part of its production to the Greek generic drugs company.

A few years later, in 2015, by which time Greek pharmaceutical R&D had started attracting interest from abroad, according to investment bankers, British private equity fund BC Partners acquired a controlling stake in Greece’s Pharmathen. A year earlier, in November 2014, the European Investment Bank had signed a five-year contract worth 25 million euros with the pharmaceutical group to fund its research, development and innovation activities.

Today the four systemic banks that are the new owners of Greek firm Famar – with production units in Greece, other European countries and Canada – hope that once its finances improve it will attract significant buying interest, given also the involvement of Pillarstone, KKR’s European debt settlement subsidiary, which should facilitate the sale process.