US drug giant Merck (NYSE: MRK) has become the latest major pharmaceuticals company to pair up with a Chinese partner, in this case US-listed Simcere Pharmaceutical (NYSE: SCR), in a bid to take advantage of huge new opportunities as China rolls out a new national healthcare safety net. Financial terms of the tie-up aren’t given, but the pair say they will form a joint venture to co-develop new drugs and market existing ones for the China market, initially focusing on cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. (company announcement) The tie-up looks strikingly similar to a joint venture announced earlier this year by Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Chinese partner Hisun Pharmaceutical (Shanghai: 600267). (previous post) Foreign drug giants have been active in China for years now, but these two new tie-ups seem to be more focused on sales and marketing, setting them apart from previous efforts that were mostly focused on using China as a base for cheap manufacturing. Both are aimed at capitalizing on an expected spending bonanza that will see China spend billions of dollars each year to provide basic healthcare to its less affluent majority under an ongoing reform plan. One interesting difference here is that Merck has found its partner in a smaller New York-listed company with market cap of about $600 million, whereas Pfizer’s partner is listed in Shanghai with a larger market cap of around $3.2 billion. I tend to like the smaller, overseas-listed companies like Simcere as they are often more entrepreneurial and adaptable to market conditions. Bigger, Shanghai-listed firms like Hisun tend to have better connections, which are obviously important in this major government-led overhaul of China’s health care system. But they also tend to move more slowly, and their decisions are often based as much or even more on non-economic considerations as they are on what’s best for business. Still, both of these partnerships look good to me in light of China’s health care reform, and investors clearly like the Simcere deal, bidding its stock up nearly 5 percent in Friday trading.
Bottom line: Merck and Simcere should reap strong rewards in China through their new joint venture, capitalizing on major new spending from China’s ongoing healthcare reform.
美国制药大厂默克(MRK.N: 行情)日前与先声药业(SCR.N: 行情)签署合作协议，成为联姻阵营的最新一家大型药企，以在中国进行医改之际，以期抓住这其中蕴含的无限大好机会。双方协议的会计细节没有对外公布，但是两公司表示希望借合资公司为中国市场研发新药，以及推广现有药物，初期将以心血管与代谢性疾病领域为重点。两公司的联姻与今年稍早辉瑞(PFE.N: 行情)与海正药业(600267.SS: 行情)宣布将成立合资企业的做法如出一辙。海外大型药企积极开拓中国市场已有很多年，但这两个案例重点更多是在销售与营销上，与之前主要把中国当成廉价的生产基地的做法不同。按照正在进行的医改计划，中国今後每年都将投入巨资，为国内较不富裕的大多数人提供基本的医疗保障。而两案例都是瞄准了中国巨大的医药开支预期，但一个很有意思的区别在于，默克找到的合作夥伴是一家市值约6亿美元左右的纽约上市企业，夥伴规模相对较小；而辉瑞制药的合作夥伴则是在上海证交所上市的企业，市值约为32亿美元。我比较倾向于较小、海外上市的企业，如先声药业，因为这些企业往往更具闯劲，更能灵活应变市场状况。而较大、上海上市企业，比如海正药业，往往关系纽带较好，对于中国这样一个由政府牵头的医改，其重要性自是不言而喻。但是船大难掉头，运转起来未必那麽灵活，而且企业决策往往要考虑企业利益与非经济因素两个方面，有时後者还要考虑得更多一些。不过，中国医保改革当前，两个联姻我觉得都还不错，投资者显然喜欢先声药业的协议，周五其股价升近5%。
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