France’s Sanofi-Aventis Buys Australia’s Largest Supplement Firm


Australia-based Primary Health Care Ltd. announced July 21 that it is getting out of the supplement business and selling its vitamin unit, Symbion, to Sanofi-Aventis SA, France’s largest drug maker, for $543.4 million. Symbion is Australia’s largest distributor of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements, holding a 21% share of the Australian supplement market and selling its products under numerous brands including Nature’s Own and Bio-Organics, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Primary Health Care, which acquired the supplement business in February as part of a A$2.7-billion takeover of Symbion Health, is shedding the unit to pay down debt and focus on building out new medical clinics and growing its pathology and radiology services. The vitamin unit’s sales totaled approximately A$190 million in 2007. Other companies reportedly interested in the acquisition included grocery wholesaler Metcash Ltd. and German drug manufacturer, Merck KGaA.

The purchase gives Sanofi-Aventis, maker of the popular U.S. drugs Ambien and Allegra, a “leading market share in a rapidly growing category” and will complement the company’s pharmaceutical operations by opening up new channels and increasing its pharmacy presence, said Oliver Charmeil, Sanofi-Aventis’s senior vice president of pharmaceutical operations for the Asia Pacific region. “Additionally, this acquisition will represent… a platform to launch a nutraceutical offering throughout the Asia-Pacific region.” The deal is expected to be completed by the end of August.

In other Sanofi-Aventis news, the company reportedly had its bid for Czech drug maker Zentiva rejected on July 18 because it failed to reflect the true value of the firm.

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