“Acquisitions are always an option”

Production at Fresenius Kabi

The business of the group’s pharmaceutical division is expected to grow significantly.

(Photo: Fresenius)

Frankfurt The Fresenius healthcare group aims to play a key role in the multi-billion dollar biotechnology market. This was announced by the head of the Fresenius Kabi drug department, Michael Sen, in an interview with Handelsblatt. “Biopharmaceuticals are the market of the future, also for Fresenius,” said Senator Seven of the ten best-selling drugs in the world are biopharmaceuticals. “If their patent protection expires, a very attractive market for imitation products will emerge,” continues Sen.

The former manager of Siemens and Eon was transferred to Fresenius Kabi in April 2021 to make the drug division more profitable and efficient. The split is the historical core of Fresenius and plays a key role in the further development of the group as business promises not only growth but also high profits.

Meanwhile, Sen, together with the Kabi board, formulated a future strategy for the division – the so-called “Vision 2026”. The three development initiatives are:

  • the medical technology business is set to flourish
  • the scope of clinical nutrition in the regions is to be increased
  • increasing sales of biotechnologically produced drugs on the market.

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At the end of March, Fresenius had already acquired two of these growth areas for over 700 million euros. In the field of medical technology, the American company Ivenix was acquired, which digitally developed a networked infusion therapy system. In addition, Fresenius Kabi acquired a majority stake in the Spanish biopharmaceutical company mAbxience, which specializes in the development and production of biological medicines.

Fresenius has a strong position in the market of products that mimic (generics) liquid chemical drugs. The spectrum ranges from anesthetics like propofol to anti-cancer drugs. Fresenius currently sells relatively small amounts of biotechnologically produced mimic (biosimilar) drugs that are produced from cell lines in huge fermenters. According to the company’s information, in 2021 this would be the average double-digit range of millions. In total, Fresenius Kabi generated sales of 7.2 billion euros in 2021.

Annual growth of eight percent

The Bad Homburg Group entered this market in 2017 with the purchase of the Merck-based biosimilar portfolio of Darmstadt, and in 2019 launched its first imitated product worth EUR 20 billion of the rheumatism drug Humira.

With the acquisition of the Spanish mAbxience, the head of Kabi Sen intends to significantly expand Fresenius’s presence in the biopharmaceutical sector. Together, the two companies have sales well in excess of EUR 300 million. Sen believes the biopharmaceutical sector is capable of annual growth of around eight percent. “With mAbxience, we are supplementing our biological products in a very sensible way and also providing access to biopharmaceutical production for the first time, which we can further develop in the coming years,” says the 53-year-old.

Among other things, mAbxience already produces the Covid-19 vaccine for Astra-Zeneca at its production facilities in Latin America as a contract manufacturer. There will be a strong increase in demand in biopharmaceutical production in the coming years.

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There is an increasing need for mRNA vaccines, viral vectors for gene therapy, and biotechnology drugs. “The opportunities around the world will become tight,” says the senator. “In this respect, we also expect an impulse from the contract manufacturing of such products.” Fresenius also wants to make its own products in the future, but it will take several years to build this production technologically, according to Sen.

Even though Fresenius has already grown significantly with mAbxience: compared to its larger competitors, the Kabi is still relatively small. For example, Novartis subsidiary Sandoz saw sales of biosimilars of approximately $ 2 billion in 2021. “It’s not the size alone that matters, but the breadth of your portfolio,” says Sen confidently. Together with mAbxience, Kabi has ten good products on the market and under development. This puts you in the first third of the competition. “This portfolio also makes us a suitable partner for insurance companies and purchasing organizations,” says the head of Kabi.

Further acquisitions for Fresenius Kabi are possible

Dream can also envision new acquisitions for the further development of Fresenius Kabi. The management of the Dax group has already declared that it prefers to invest capital in Kabi. “Acquisitions are always an option,” says the senator. The group has identified a number of areas in which it wants to develop. “But it always depends on the right companies and the ability to buy them.”

In addition to the Vision 2026 development initiatives, Kabi executives must also implement a cost-and-performance-cutting program that was already approved in 2021 by the Fresenius board led by CEO Stephan Sturm before Sen took office. The three divisions Fresenius, Kabi, the Helios hospital subsidiary and clinical service provider Vamed are set to save a total of over 150 million euros from 2023.

At Fresenius Kabi, some 2,000 jobs are to be lost worldwide and 250 in Germany, Handelsblatt learned in early June. Data that the Kabi Sen board member neither confirmed nor denied. Negotiations with employee representatives are currently underway. “It wouldn’t be seriously communicating specific projects or figures right now,” says Sen.

Michael Sen

The head of the Fresenius Kabi division is considering further acquisitions.

(Photo: Fresenius)

A structural problem with Fresenius Kabi is that about half of its sales are infusions and intravenous generics, which are under price pressure in the large US and Chinese markets. “This core business will continue to feed us and will not fail as these drugs will continue to be in demand. But the pressure on profitability is growing, so we need to immunize the business, says Sen.

According to Sen, management is looking at all areas to increase Kabi’s competitiveness. Among other things, the production network is to be optimized and it will be possible to combine product lines. “But we also ask ourselves if we want to stay in a market where we do not have a critical mass,” says the senator. In the administrative area, supporting functions are also to be integrated, and the processes are to be digitized and automated to a greater extent.

In its core business, the company is feeling tremendous shocks in the US and China due to tenders and rebate agreements. “Our volume is growing, but so is the pressure on our margins,” says the senator. Therefore, it is necessary to act “in the interests of our company and all employees”. “The social partners understand that too.”

More: Weak profits, cumbersome dialysis department – why Fresenius shareholders need a lot of patience

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