LONDON – Japan’s biggest drugmaker is hunting for partnerships and deals — at the right price — as it seeks to build an identity beyond the pharmacy shelves of its home market.
While Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. still has scope for acquisitions, after its $4.66 billion purchase of U.S. biotech Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc. in January, selling assets, limiting debt levels and preserving its credit ratings are also goals, Chief Executive Officer Christophe Weber said Thursday in an interview in London. The company already has about 180 research partnerships, and will form more of them to build its pipeline.
The problem with acquisitions is finding the right assets “at a price point that makes sense,” he said.
Weber, the first non-Japanese person to lead Takeda, is driving a twofold transformation. He’s pushing the company toward more expensive drugs for smaller numbers of patients, saying he wants it to be as nimble as a biotech but backed by the financial capacity of big pharma. He’s also aiming for more diversity in his ranks, while expanding a drug development hub in Boston and seeking a leading role for the firm in medical research.
“The more productive we can be with the R&D, the more flexibility we will have,” Weber said. “Our successes pay for all our failures.”
Takeda aims to keep its debt to no more than three times a measure of earnings. Weber is still looking for businesses outside the core that he could shed — as the company did with the chemicals unit it sold last year to Fujifilm Holdings Corp. and the respiratory medicines AstraZeneca PLC bought in 2015.
After signing more than 100 partnerships in the last two years for early-stage assets, Takeda will probably slow its search for collaborations and work to make the best use of the tie-ups it already has, Weber said.
“We want to be in the sweet spot where we are a Japanese company but very progressive and very modern,” Weber said. “That’s the best of two worlds.”
Weber, who has spent three years at Takeda, said he’s in it for the long haul. “I have a 10 years’ agenda,” he said. “I don’t decide that, but that’s the intent.”
When it comes to looking at deals, Weber hinted that Takeda would be willing to pay more for a profitable business.
The scope available for deals “depends on what you buy. If you buy Ebitda, you have a different possibility than if you don’t buy Ebitda,” he said, referring to the measure of profit known as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.