GSK goes to shareholders with HGS bid – BASF invests in omega-3 – And Abbott hit with $1.5bn Depakote fine


CHEMICAL – Fertiliser firm EuroChem has signed a deal to buy the nitrogen fertiliser business of German agrichemical giant K+S for €140 million (£110 million). In the 2011 financial year, K+S Nitrogen generated sales of €1.2 billion. The business is based in Mannheim, Germany, and employs about 180 people.

PHARMACEUTICALGSK has turned hostile in its $2.6 billion (£1.6 billion) bid for Human Genome Sciences (HGS). It has turned down the opportunity to participate in the ‘strategic alternatives review’ established by HGS and has instead taken its offer directly to the shareholders. The two companies have worked together for over 20 years on several products, including the development of Benlysta (benlimumab) products, the first new treatment for lupus erythematosus in half a century. GSK insists that ‘now is the appropriate time in the evolution of the GSK–HGS relationship for the companies to combine and that GSK is uniquely positioned to deliver on the promises of benlimumab, albiglutide and darapladib.  Benlimumab, a monoclonal antibody, was approved by US authorities in March 2011, and analysts are predicting peak sales of $3–7 million per year.

CHEMICALBASF has bought UK company Equateq, which specialises in manufacturing omega-3 fatty acids for pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements. Equateq has a production site on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland with 47 employees. All Equateq employees will be integrated into the pharma ingredients and services business at BASF, part of the nutrition and health division. The companies have agreed not to disclose financial details of the transaction. Equateq uses chromatography to separate omega-3 fatty acids at exceptional purity levels.

PHARMACEUTICAL – The US Department of Justice has hit pharma giant Abbott with a $1.5 billion payment to settle claims of illegal promotion of Depakote (valproate semisodium) products. Valproate semisodium is a 1:1 combination of sodium valproate and valproic acid, approved for the treatment of several neurological conditions. The payment includes a criminal fine of $700 million and civil settlements with the federal government and the states totalling $800 million. Specifically, Abbott has admitted promoting the drug to control agitation and aggression in elderly dementia patients and to treat schizophrenia – when neither of these uses was approved in the US from 1998 to 2006. Abbott maintained a specialised sales force trained to market Depakote products in nursing homes for dementia patients, without evidence that the drug was safe and effective in this area. In addition, from 2001 to 2006, the company marketed Depakote in combination with atypical antipsychotic drugs for treating schizophrenia, even after clinical trials failed to demonstrate that adding valproate semisodium was more effective than an atypical antipsychotic alone. Four corporate whistleblowers will get $84 million from the federal share of the settlement. ‘We are pleased to resolve this matter and are confident we have the programmes in place to satisfy the requirements of this settlement,’ said executive vice president Laura Schumacher. ‘The company takes its responsibility to patients and health care providers seriously.’

CHEMICAL – Central American paints company Pintuco (Compania Global de Pinturas) has signed a deal to buy the Central American paints business of US speciality chemical company HB Fuller for $120 million. Pintuco is a subsidiary of Grupo Mundial. HB Fuller says that it is looking to focus on adhesives; as such it makes sense to offload the ‘non-core’ paints business, which employs over 800 people across production plants and laboratories in Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama. In 2011, the business generated sales of $110 million.

CHEMICAL – Norway has formally opened what it says it the largest facility for testing and developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) methods in the world: Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM). The owners have formally invited companies to tender request to make use of the facilities, which include an amine plant built by Aker Clean Carbon and a chilled ammonia plant built by Alstom Norway. TCM is a joint venture between Norway and three oil majors: Statoil, Shell and Sasol. It aims help companies reduce the cost, technical, environmental and financial risks associated with CCS methods.

Andrew Turley

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