Serum Institute defers stake sale plan

Serum Institute of India Ltd, the world’s fifth-largest vaccines maker by volume and the largest in Asia, has postponed its plan to sell a minority stake in the company due to global market volatility, several media reports said citing a top executive.

Billionaire Cyrus Poonawalla, who owns Serum Institute, was in talks with private equity funds and others to sell up to 10 per cent of the company about two months ago, and was reportedly seeking a valuation of as much as $12 billion. This would have translated into one of the biggest PE deals in India.

The group has now decided to put off stake sale talks until the markets stabilise and is planning to wait for a few months to one year, the media reports said, citing Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla.

“They (investors) indicated it would be difficult for them to dish that much out right now. Naturally, we weren’t going to accept a lower valuation just because there is a liquidity crunch going on,” Poonawalla told Reuters, referring to unnamed PE and sovereign wealth funds the company was in talks with for the proposed stake sale.

The proceeds from the stake sale were to fund the Poonawallas' initiatives in real estate and other sectors.

Serum Institute makes immunobiological drugs including vaccines in India. It is also developing an intra-nasal swine flu vaccine.

The company reported sales of around Rs 4,000 crore with net income of Rs 2,000 crore for the financial year ended on March 31, 2015, making it one of the most profitable healthcare and pharmaceutical firms in the country.

Last November, it entered into a distribution agreement with Mumbai-based drugmaker Cipla to sell affordable paediatric vaccines in Europe. In May this year, it signed a pact with Cipla to sell flu vaccine Nasovac-S in India.

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