When Abdi Ibrahim acquired a 28.5 percent stake in Swiss biotech OM Pharma in September 2020, it represented a historic moment for Turkey’s pharma industry; the first time a Turkish firm had ever taken part in the management of a European company.
With this partnership agreement, the long trend of Turkish companies being acquired by foreign enterprises is reversed for the first time
Nezih Barut, chairman, Abdi Ibrahim
The shares, acquired for around USD 530 million, position Abdi Ibrahim as OM’s second-largest shareholder. Geneva-based OM was founded in 1937 and sees itself as a leader in the prevention of recurrent respiratory and urinary tract infections. The company is also active in the treatment of vascular diseases and has an extensive global reach of over 65 countries. This international footprint, as well as Abdi Ibrahim’s stated desire to invest more heavily in biological treatments, was a key factor in OM Pharma’s attractiveness.
Already Turkey’s leading pharma company, Abdi Ibrahim has long held ambitions becoming a truly global brand. Indeed, back in 2015, CEO Süha Taşpolatoğlu told PharmaBoardroom about the firm’s then-recent move into biologics and trumpeted its potential to go global in a way that its domestic competitors could not.
“If there is a Turkish company that can [become a global brand], it is Abdi Ibrahim,” he said. “I say this primarily because of the company’s ownership; while many of the owners of Turkish pharmaceutical companies have already or are trying to sell their companies and get out of the industry, Abdi Ibrahim’s board is still pushing their business forward, and willing to take risks and invest to take the business in new directions. Furthermore, our current investment strategy will certainly help increase Abdi Ibrahim’s presence on the global market. It is also worth noting that we have the moral support of the government in Ankara as well.”
He concluded, “many officials have openly told us that Abdi Ibrahim is the company with the potential to become a Turkish multinational pharmaceutical company. We’ll just have to wait and see how long it takes.”
Speaking five years later, at the launch of the deal which will see Abdi Ibrahim jointly produce some chemicals and biotech products with its new Swiss partner OM, the company’s chairman Nezih Barut highlighted how the deal was a paradigm shifter for Turkish pharma.
“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of a domestic pharmaceutical industry,” he said. “As the market leader in Turkey for the last 18 years, we have always kept our aspirations high. We have become the first Turkish enterprise to be ranked among the global top 100 pharma companies. We established one of the most advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities in Turkey and Europe. We assumed a leading position in biotechnology in Turkey with AbdiBio. We opened production facilities in Kazakhstan and Algeria. We invested in a start-up in the US to research new molecules. We always kept an eye open for acquisition opportunities in Europe and the US, which we saw as a leadership opportunity for our country’s pharmaceutical industry.
“With this partnership agreement, the long trend of Turkish companies being acquired by foreign enterprises is reversed for the first time as we become a partner in a well-established biotech company based in Switzerland, a hub of the global pharmaceutical industry and home to several pharma giants. I believe this venture will boost morale and add motivation to the Turkish pharma industry in a time of concern and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic. This partnership is a testament to the courage, passion and responsibility that has guided Abdi İbrahim for generations.”