Novartis explores new licensing route
Ontrack, UK firm in pact
Sodexho Pass to focus on corporate gifts
Surat economic zone ready for action
Standard Pharma shifts focus to biotech

Mumbai, July 6: 
In a significant move, Novartis India Ltd, is looking at in-licensing of pharmaceutical products in the country.

The domestic subsidiary of global pharma major Novartis AB has, however, not yet spelt out the specific product areas or the companies (whether Indian or foreign) with which it would be keen on entering licensing agreements with. Novartis India is the first subsidiary of a multinational pharma company which is exploring this route.

While licensing is being seen as a cost effective way of sourcing products which could be difficult, or tricky to develop by using one’s own resources, in-licensing is a process through which a company introduces molecules discovered by another company by a licensing agreement and marketing the product as its own brand.

Analysts, however, point out that this is not an issue with Novartis India that has a strong parent backing. “Perhaps the company is now looking at newer product categories or an addition to its existing product pipeline,” an analyst noted.

This move by Novartis comes at a time when domestic pharma majors like Ranbaxy Laboratories and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories have reaped rich dividends by out-licensing their star research products to overseas companies some of which include Bayer AG and Novo Nordisk. These companies have now moved to a stage where they out-license their molecules that are in Phase II of clinical trials.

Novartis India, which has a presence in oncology, cardio-vascular among other therapeutic segments, is fearing that its key product, Voveran may come under the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO) if the new drug policy norm, which stipulates that drugs having a turnover of Rs 25 crore and market share of 50 per cent, is implemented.

This concern was expressed by its senior management at an analysts meet held on Friday. R. Thompson, the company’s vice-chairman and managing director, pointed out that while it has no plans for a buy-back in the near future, it is planning to introduce two cardio vascular products (Diovan, Escolin) in the current year. In its existing portfolio, it is planning to launch line extensions apart from extending to C-class towns as well.

The company is also present in the consumer healthcare segment where it has reputed brands like Calcium Sandoz (it managed to double market share last year), Sandocal and Otrivin. However, this sector despite its double digit growth rate, has off late been a witness to entry of numerous players, which analysts fear may affect its margins.


Calcutta, July 6: 
Ontrack Systems Limited (OSL) has acquired 50 per cent stake in UK-based PersonalMedic for a patent pending software application in the healthcare segment. The OSL centre in Calcutta will be used for the development of solutions in the healthcare industry. The UK firm, with a turnover of about £ 100,000, has also entered into a long-term software development agreement with OSL.

Speaking on the Ontrack’s future plans, managing director B Hari says, “We have identified the UK as our growth area and are looking for acquisitions in the SMS gaming and digital TV programming industry.”

OSL has recently started a development centre in the UAE to serve West Asia and Egypt. There are also plans to enter the Chinese market to develop multilingual software and customise products according to the requirements of the region.

The company currently operates in Switzerland, Germany, Holland, UK, Japan and the US.

OSL clocked revenues of Rs 10.83 crore for 2001-2002, a 66.22 per cent growth against the previous year. Hari said that the company expects to achieve revenues of Rs 50 crore for the current financial year. Almost 80 per cent of the earnings will come from exports and overseas operations. Eighty per cent of global revenues will be generated from European countries.

The company’s board has proposed a maiden dividend of 5 per cent for approval by its shareholders. The promoters hold 30 per cent of the stake. Twenty per cent is held between financial institutions and banks. The remaining is held by employees and the public. At present, OSL has around 200 employees.


New Delhi, July 6: 
The Rs 60-crore Sodexho Pass India has shifted focus from its mainstay of food vouchers to the corporate gift vouchers segment.

The change in focus follows a draft guideline from the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) last year, allowing employers to make gifts to their employees at ceremonial and special functions up to Rs 5,000 a year. The amount will be considered as a tax-free perk for the employee and a tax-deductible expenditure for the employer.

Sodexho Pass India’s CEO Ravi Saxena said after CBDT issued this guideline, the company has expanded the number of affiliate partners over the past six months where the gift vouchers can be used from 500 outlets in 10 cities to 4,000 outlets in 50 cities across the country.

“At present, 90 per cent of our business comes from meal vouchers, but in the two-three years, we expect to have at least 30 per cent of the business from gift vouchers,” Saxena said.

The company expects to end its year this August with about Rs 100 crore.


New Delhi, July 6: 
Surat special economic zone (SEZ) will have approximately 50 trading units beginning their operations within the next five to six months.

Around 45 companies have already received letters of permission (LoP) for this zone. It is mandatory for these companies to start their operations within three years of receiving LoP. In case they fail to do so, their licences can be revoked.

Sources, however, said the companies which received LoP recently, refused to start their operations immediately as the international market conditions are not very favourable.

The companies, which are all set to begin their operations, include the state-run Diamond and Jewellery Development Corporation (which is also the nodal agency for Surat SEZ), MacLloyd Company, Sanghvi Exports, Dupont Filaments, Re-Larcca Overseas, Varun International, Gem Star Company and Touchwood Weaves among others.

Also, five other companies, which have filed their applications after April 1, 2002, are likely to receive their LoPs next week. These include Anuimpex Pvt. Ltd, which has sought a blanket permission to trade in general items, Dyeash Impex will trade in chemicals, Jadav Marbles, Sir Crockery (manufacturers of melamine crockery) and Asia World Export will trade in imitation jewellery and glass items. The general items category include all items except prohibited and canalised.

The SEZ will largely have units covering sectors like textiles, garments, dyes and chemicals, plastic waste and gems and jewellery. At present, the SEZ has five working units — Sky Industries trading in elastics, Barmecha Impex (gems and jewellery), Suraj Diamonds, Foremost Finvest Ltd and Tabrez Impex, both trade in textiles.

Two out of these five units have been operational since Surat was an export processing zone (EPZ) between 1995 and October 2000.


Calcutta, July 6: 
Standard Pharmaceuticals, a pioneer in penicillin bulk drug production in the country in the fifties and sixties, has branched out into bio-technology drugs and fertilisers to regain its pre-eminence.

Plans are afoot to open franchise outlets to sell vegetables produced by using bio-fertilisers in Calcutta’s markets.

According to O.P. Mall, the new promoter of Standard Pharma, close to Rs 10 crore has been invested in various new bio-tech products, which are expected to yield a turnover of around Rs 80 crore by 2003.

The company has started implementing several bio-tech projects at its sprawling factory at Serampore, in Hooghly, and is expected to soon launch a slew of drugs to control blood cholesterol and cure heart diseases.

Mall said Standard would launch lavastatine, a cholesterol control medicine, and pravastatine, a drug that provides relief to heart patients, within a month’s time.

Standard planned to produce four tonnes of Lavastatine, costing about Rs 20,000 to Rs 22,000 tonne per kg, every year; 2.5 tonnes of Pravastatine, which is costlier at around Rs 1.8 lakh per kg, will be produced annually.

The market potential of these drugs is 10 tonnes and 5 tonnes respectively every year. Currently, only a handful of pharmaceutical companies in India make these drugs.

The company has a bio-fertiliser plant whose capacity is around 200 tonnes per day. This includes 18 pits for culturing earthworm. A technical officer at Standard said the nitrogen-fixing bacteria and phosphate-fixing bacteria are mixed with compost, which is prepared by mixing cow-dung and earthworm.

To popularise the use of bio-fertiliser among farmers and take vegetables grown with bio-fertilisers to people, Standard has initiated a programme to distribute seeds and fertiliser to growers and buy back their produce for eventual sale through franchise outlets.

Standard has also showed interest in a tissue culture project in collaboration with the West Bengal government’s science and technology department and Viswabharati University.

The first penicillin bulk drug manufacturer in the country, the company was split into two entities in the early eighties. While Standard continued to make bulk drugs, Opec Innovations, the other firm, was producing formulations.

By 1987, both companies became sick and were referred to the Board for Financial and Industrial Reconstruction (BIFR). The units were closed in 1991 since there was no rehabilitation package. The Sarabahis of Ambalal Sarabhai Enterprises, which owned the firms, lost interest and did not participate in BIFR meetings.

In 1995, Mall, a jute mill owner, took over Standard from the Sarabahis and a rehabilitation package was worked out by BIFR.

Production resumed in 1999 with old products such as Stanpen, Stanmycin, Livergen, Brethmol and Quardin. A number of ayurvedic products such as Stankoff for cough and cold, Kabz-nash for constipation and chyawanprash were launched in quick succession.

A new line of veterinary drug, pleuromutilin, has also been introduced in collaboration with Vibitech of Italy for 100 per cent export. Mall said four consignments of 100 to 500 kg have been exported on trial basis. Mall said the product has been approved by the Italian buyer and shipment of three tonne per month would begin from August. “But the future of Standard would now lie in biotech products,” Mall noted.


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