Update on Walgreens Boots Alliance deal

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Since the global financial crisis, mega dealmaking has gone out of fashion but could now be making a comeback with Stefano Pessina’s planned leveraged buyout of Walgreens Boots Alliance, described as potentially the “largest private equity deal on record”, according to the UK Financial Times. Days after it emerged that Walgreens Boots Alliance had held preliminary talks with private equity groups regarding a potential US$70bn deal to go private, shares in the US-based company rose again on reports that KKR had made a formal approach.

Pessina has a 16% stake in the company and already teamed up with KKR to take Alliance Boots private in 2007, though this time there is a far more challenging amount of debt to be raised in the high-yield bond market, which will be a test of market appetite for a deal of this magnitude. Nicholas Hall commented: “Last week I wrote about the possibility of WBA’s delisting from the stock market and going private: “The general view is that this deal is just too big; and yet, and yet!” Seems I was right to be cautious about writing off what might be Stefano Pessina’s magnificent swansong and the world’s largest private equity deal.”

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Walgreens Boots Alliance is the global leader in the retail pharmacy sector, operating just under 20,000 stores in 11 countries and recording revenues of US$136.9bn in the year to end-August 2019. WBA’s US retail pharmacy business accounts for 76% of this total, but operating income has declined by 20.5% owing to drug reimbursement pressures and increased competition from Walmart and Amazon. In addition, WBA’s international retail pharmacy business reported weak growth owing to a “challenging UK market”. According to a report in Forbes, the advantage of going private would be a chance to arrest the decline in WBA’s share price, down nearly 10% this year, as the deal would take the company away from the public eye and could make it easier to focus more on pharmacy point-of-care services.

Separately, under an agreement with Mitra Adiperkasa (MAP), a leading lifestyle retailer in Indonesia, WBA is to create a Boots branded pharmacy-led, health & beauty retail business in one of the world’s most populous countries. The first stores are expected to open in H2 2020. “Boots is a great addition to our diversified brand portfolio, which will help MAP further unleash the power of its 360° retailing strategy,” said Group CEO, VP Sharma. “We are confident that the combination of Boots cutting-edge products together with MAP’s solid competitive advantages will elevate the unique Boots experience to a whole new level in Indonesia.”

Announcing Nicholas Hall’s Reports End of Year SaleUp to 25% off – valid until 31 December. We are pleased to announce a special End of Year offer for our CHC Reports! Until 31 December, we are offering a 15% discount on the 2019 Reports Catalogue, plus an additional 10% discount on orders for multiple reports. If you would like additional information on any of our publications, or would like to place an order, please contact Melissa.Lee@NicholasHall.com

Alibaba buys in to “digital silk road” vision

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According to a report in the FT over the weekend, Chinese e-commerce retailer Alibaba is close to agreeing a deal with Russian internet company, Mail.ru, and sovereign wealth fund, Russian Direct Investment Fund, to form a joint-venture e-commerce company.

As highlighted in our earlier blog on Chinese investment in Africa, there is a clear vision from China and Chinese companies to invest in the physical infrastructure for a new silk road (Beijing’s Belt & Road Initiative) connecting Asia, the Middle East and Europe, and this latest news on a China-Russia e-commerce tie-up underlines the appetite for a digital silk road too.

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In October 2017, the Russian Government approved a Ministry of Health bill to allow the online purchase and home delivery of OTCs, which came into force in January 2018. As a result, Mail.ru announced the launch of its online pharmacy in April 2018. At present, established western e-commerce giants like Amazon are largely absent from Russia, giving Alibaba the freedom to chart new territory in a market of 147mn consumers at an opportune time.

As the FT article points out, Alibaba is also fighting back against Amazon in certain markets, like Indonesia, where the US retail giant has stolen a march. For example, Alibaba has invested heavily in two e-commerce companies, Tokopedia and Lazada, both of which market goods, including healthcare products, across southeast Asia.

Explore the digital landscape at Nicholas Hall’s upcoming OTC.NewDirections Executive Conference. Other topics on the agenda include Medical Device Regulations, Medical Cannabis, Switch and Smart Probiotics. This will be an inspiring day on 12 September in London, focusing on Where Innovation Meets Regulation. For details of the full agenda or to reserve your place contact elizabeth.bernos@NicholasHall.com

Asia OTC investment in Middle East & Africa

In last week’s blog, we looked at rising Chinese investment in Africa, specifically in the area of pharmaceuticals, and this week our focus is on Indian & SE Asian OTC marketers expanding their operations across the Middle East & Africa. Here we summarise some of the key developments that form this growing trend over the past 6-9 months.

In July 2017, it was reported that a number of Indian pharma companies, including Dr Reddy’s and Lupin, were planing to expand operations in Africa. While Lupin is focused on opportunities in South Africa, following the establishment of a new regulatory authority (SAPHRA) in the country in mid-2017, Dr Reddy’s is targeting an expanded presence in French-speaking countries in Africa, which are markets where Indian generic companies have traditionally been underrepresented.

OTC development by Indian marketers in Africa will not be limited to generics, however. In summer 2017, Emami announced that it is evaluating setting up manufacturing units in international markets to meet growing demand for its brands. The marketer also revealed that it is expanding into Nigeria and Ghana via product launches.

More recently, in January 2018, Strides Arcolab agreed – via its wholly-owned subsidiary Strides Shasun – to acquire a 55% stake in South African-based Trinity Pharma for R55mn (US$4.5mn). Strides Shasun MD, Shashank Sinha, said: “This … provides further impetus to our ‘In Africa for Africa’ strategy as it fast tracks Strides’ presence in the lucrative and high entry barrier market of South Africa. With this acquisition, we are now present in East, West and South Africa, covering all the key markets in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

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Strides Arcolab’s wide presence in Africa

As for Southeast Asian marketers, Indonesian OTC company Dexa Medica launched a brand called Stimuno in Nigeria in November 2017. Formulated with Phyllanthus niruri extract 50mg, Stimuno is a herbal & natural immune stimulant available in packs of 10 capsules. Dexa Medica is already one of Nigeria’s Top 5 OTC marketers, thanks to the success of its systemic analgesic brand Boska, and the company decided to leverage this brand equity by launching Stimuno at an event in Lagos called Pain-Free Day. Boska Brand Executive, Tunde Ojedokun, said that Stimuno is recommended for everyone, both healthy and unhealthy, for the total maintenance of the body system.

In February 2018, Indonesian drugmaker Kalbe Farma announced it is eyeing expansion across the Middle East, as well as Sri Lanka. Following a positive response to test-marketing of its packaged coconut water in the Middle East, Kalbe is now considering launching a range of nutritional products across the region. With local sales still sluggish, Kalbe’s new President Director Vidjongtius is focusing on new markets to broaden the company’s reach beyond Southeast Asia. 

OTC DASHBOARD remains your best port of call for the latest consumer healthcare trends in the Middle East & Africa. In the coming months, we will be updating our reports on 11 countries across the region, including Nigeria and South Africa. 

Cognitive Boost For Children Whose Mothers Take Supplements In Pregnancy

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Maternal multi-micronutrient (MMN) supplementation during pregnancy could drastically improve cognitive ability in children, reports a study published on 17th January in The Lancet Global Health. This may be apparent in children between the ages of 9 to 12 years.

The Summit Institute of Development research team led a follow-up study involving 2,879 schoolchildren in Indonesia whose mothers were supplemented with MMN or iron + folic acid (IFA) in the Supplementation with Multiple Micronutrients Intervention Trial (2001-2004).

SID’s initial research was conducted with 31,290 pregnant women on Lombok Island. The women were selected randomly to receive multi-micronutrient supplements.

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The CEO of SID, Mandri Apriatni, commented: “Results of our initial research showed there had been an 18 percent decrease in infant mortality rates each year among mothers who had taken multi-micronutrient supplements during their pregnancy, much lower compared to those who only received iron and folate acid supplementation.”

In the follow up-study that saw children complete cognitive tests over a two-year period, researchers observed better procedural memory in MMN children vs IFA children. The difference between the two corresponded with the increase associated with an additional half-year of schooling.

Children of anaemic mothers in the MMN group scored considerably higher in general intellectual competence, equivalent to the increase associated with an additional full year of schooling. Overall, there was a positive coefficient of MMN vs IFA in 18 / 21 tests.