Home / Companies / News /  GSK sells health drinks arm, buys US cancer treatment firm

London: British pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline Plc announced two multi-billion-dollar deals Monday—the sale of its Asian health drinks unit to Anglo-Dutch food giant Unilever Plc and the purchase of US cancer specialist Tesaro. GSK said it is buying Tesaro for $5.1 billion (€4.5 billion), while Unilever is spending €3.3 billion to acquire the drinks unit, whose brands include iconic night-time hot drink Horlicks.

“The acquisition of Tesaro will strengthen our pharmaceuticals business by accelerating the build of our oncology pipeline and commercial footprint, along with providing access to new scientific capabilities," GSK chief executive Emma Walmsley said in a statement.

Earlier Monday, Unilever said its deal was for GSK’s business in India, Bangladesh and 20 other predominantly Asian markets, as it looks to profit from increased popularity of health foods in high-growth emerging markets.

“GSK’s health drinks portfolio is the undisputed India, with iconic brands such as Horlicks and Boost and a product portfolio supported by strong nutritional claims," Unilever said.

Horlicks has a long history in India—which accounts for almost 90% of the GSK arm’s turnover in Asia—having been introduced there in the 1930s.

“Horlicks products have been an everyday staple in South Asian households across generations," Unilever said, adding GSK’s health drinks portfolio has grown by double digits in the last 15 years.

“Despite this, the category still remains under-penetrated in India," it said.

Unilever’s acquistion is the first since Paul Polman announced his retirement at the helm of the consumer products giant last week, after a failed plan to move the firm’s headquarters from London to the Netherlands.

Speaking of the oncology deal meanwhile, Tesaro chief executive Lonnie Moulder said the “transaction marks the beginning of a new global partnership that will accelerate our oncology business and allow our mission of delivering transformative products to individuals living with cancer".

Boston-based Tesaro is “an oncology-focused biopharmaceutical company devoted to providing transformative cancer" treatments, according to a joint statement with GSK.

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