Mexico, with the second largest pharmaceutical market in Latin America, has a number of strong local pharma industry players. These companies, no longer focused solely on the domestic market, are extending their footprint into LatAm. Grupo Sanfer/Hormona Mexico has already taken up positions across the region.
Laboratorios Sanfer, founded in Mexico in 1941, has a long history as a domestic manufacturing powerhouse. After deciding to merge with another leading Mexican producer, Laboratorios Hormona, ten years ago to create Grupo Sanfer/Hormona Mexico, the company began an aggressive expansion strategy that has led to its extended footprint in Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador and Peru and the 17 manufacturing centres it has throughout the region today.
In conversation with PharmaBoardroom, Dagoberto Cortés Cervantes, director of Grupo Sanfer/Hormona Mexico, outlines the extent of the group’s growth: “Ten years ago, the percentage share of LatAm segment sales for Grupo Sanfer was 18 percent. Today this share has grown to 39 percent.”
A Multifaceted Strategy
According to Cortés Cervantes, the aggressive expansion strategy behind the company’s growth in LatAm was multifaceted and included: “the acquisition of companies including their production plants, commercial brands and personnel; the purchase of marketing rights on commercial brands already positioned in different countries; the signing of licensing agreements for market-specialised brands mainly to support specific areas of our business units, and the registration of new strategic products for each country.”
Ten years ago, the percentage share of LatAm segment sales for Grupo Sanfer was 18 percent. Today this share has grown to 39 percent
Dagoberto Cortés Cervantes, Grupo Sanfer/Hormona
Growth outside of Mexico and the incorporation of other companies into the group has also led to progress in the firm’s portfolio. “10 years ago 40 percent of our products were licensing agreements with other companies,” says Cortés Cervantes. “Today that figure has been reduced to 15 percent because we have a more consolidated portfolio with some acquired brands and others we have developed internally, which gives us the freedom to work freely without being constrained by foreign policies and contractual royalty payments,” he explains.
Sanfer began its expansion efforts cautiously, initially buying up one company abroad, in Columbia, in 2016. The success of the operation encouraged the firm to take further risks and continue its acquisitions outside of Mexico. “We saw that the risk was worth it, so five years later we acquired another company in Colombia and now we are building a new production plant in Bogota with the latest technology that meets the requirements of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” says Cortés Cervantes.
Because of the cultural similarities between countries in the region, integrating new acquisitions went smoothly and further confirmed the decision to expand into LatAm. “These commonalities [between the countries] helped us have fluid communication and ensured a quick integration process. That experience motivated us to continue with our expansion plan and under the same conditions we acquired Laboratorios Pharmadorf in Argentina, Laboratorios Portugal and Laboratorios Cifarma in Peru, Laboratorios Pasteur in Chile, and opened our own subsidiaries, thus creating Sanfer Ecuador, Sanfer Central America with offices in Guatemala, and a distribution centre in Panama.”
For its growth and expansion strategy, Sanfer relied on the financial support of private equity from two investment funds in the US, General Atlantic (GA), and Canada CDPQ (Caisse de dépot et placement du Québec), enabling the firm to move decisively. “In terms of aggressiveness or speed, with the entry of these partners, the change was drastic. They gave new impetus to our strategies, pushing us to act decisively. They accelerated the pace to increase productivity and make the business bigger for more efficient supply chains,” Cortés Cervantes explains.
The positive results of these investments were also due in part to the prospects that arose through the “Alianza del Pacifico” trade agreement. Under the agreement, Cortés Cervantes says: “Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico established a mechanism for economic and commercial integration based on four fundamental pillars: free mobility of goods, services, capital and people, and a transversal axis of cooperation. Taking advantage of the benefits of the treaty is also part of a corporate strategic decision.”
Looking Further Afield
Sanfer has now set its sights on other regions, including the United States and Europe. “The next step will be to achieve a presence in the United States, where we have already made progress, and the completion of the Sanfer European Community and Sanfer Asia projects, on which we have already made inroads with some products from our Animal Health division and are preparing the ground to enter the market with our pharma product line,” says Cortés Cervantes.
In support of Sanfer and other Mexican companies’ international expansion, María del Socorro España Lomelí, executive director of Mexico’s National Association of Manufacturers of Medicines (ANAFAM) applauded their efforts in a recent PharmaBoardroom interview: “With respect to internationalisation, there are several that have been successful in their expansions; among them are Sanfer, Psicofarma, Liomont, Asofarma, Siegfried, to mention a few. Sanfer’s growth in particular is due not only to its factories and plants throughout Latin America, but also to its increased exports.”