GlaxoSmithKline buys Stiefel to broaden portfolio

Not a week after announcing an innovative deal to combine its HIV business with that of Pfizer Inc. (PFE) into a new company, GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK) said it has agreed to acquire Stiefel Laboratories Inc. for about $2.9 billion in cash plus the assumption of debt and other payments.

While CEO Andrew Witty has been repeatedly saying he's not interested in mega-deals or mergers, smaller ones still fit Glaxo's overall strategy. And if last week's the deal with Pfizer was innovative in its thinking, this deal is a straight acquisition, albeit a smaller one than the latest mega-mergers we've see in the field.

What's certain is that the drug industry keeps wheeling and dealing -- one of the only lively spots dealmaking -- lately as big pharmaceutical companies, facing declining sales as many of their drugs go off patent in the next few years and competition with generics increases, look for sources of growth.

Glaxo's acquisition of Stiefel is no different. The deal is expected to be accretive to EPS in 2010, but most important would be its contribution to Glaxo's skincare business, which would nearly triple, giving it an 8 percent share of the global prescription dermatology market. Glaxo has been trying to broaden its focus and this deal would diversify and strengthen its product mix.

Stiefel is a U.S. maker of dermatology products, part-owned by buyout firm Blackstone Group (BX), known for such treatments as the DUAC acne gel and OLUX, an anti-itch foam for the scalp. The company has been controlled for more than 160 years by the founding Stiefel family, and current CEO Charles Stiefel will continue to lead the new business under the Glaxo umbrella after the deal closes in the third quarter of 2009. Stiefel has annual sales $900 million and 4,000 employees. Stiefel was put up for sale a month ago and attracted interest from a number of large pharmaceutical companies.

It seems that as long as this environment of companies looking for deals and bond investors eager to lend to the biggest names in the industry, which are considered defensive bets in a worsening economy, we will see more of the same.

But we've been seeing two main types of deals in the industry, mergers and acquisitions and collaborations over a drug or two. Well, only this morning Belgian biotechnology group Galapagos inked a deal with Merck (MRK) that could be worth over 192 million euros ($251.7 million) to develop treatments for inflammatory diseases.

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