New Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. President Christophe Weber said recently that Japan’s biggest drugmaker will continue efforts to expand its business abroad through acquisitions and will outline a new strategy by the end of the year.
In an interview with Kyodo News on Wednesday, Weber also said he wants to end the “nationality debate” after he faced opposition from some shareholders to his appointment as head of one of the most traditional companies in the country.
“We are always looking at opportunities…to reinforce our business in some countries. That is (the) dynamic which is always existing,” said Weber, who assumed his post in June. “We might do some acquisitions…(and have) some strategic alliances” in the future.
Takeda, which has footholds in around 80 countries, is now holding “broad” and “multiple” discussions internally and will “clarify some direction” within the year, he said.
Takeda has rapidly extended its global reach through the acquisition of Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc. of the United States in 2008 and Swiss drugmaker Nycomed A/S in 2011 for a total of $22 billion.
While falling short of specifying how he will update the company’s strategy, Weber indicated Takeda’s global presence might be enhanced by contributing to welfare in the developing world.
The six billion people living in emerging economies “are looking for good products,” he said, adding there are business and humanitarian rationales if Takeda has “some drugs that we can make available” to them.
A former executive of British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline plc, Weber joined Takeda in April as chief operating officer, and in June the Frenchman became the first non-Japanese to run the company in its 233-year history.
The appointment of foreign executives at major Japanese companies normally makes headlines due to their paucity.
Weber’s case particularly grabbed the spotlight as a group of more than 100 shareholders and former employees sent a letter to the board of Takeda in April, decrying his promotion to the presidency and even describing it as akin to “hijacking by foreign capital,” ahead of the company’s annual shareholders meeting in June.
His appointment was eventually approved at the meeting held in Osaka, where Takeda Chief Executive Officer Yasuchika Hasegawa defended Weber’s ascension, saying he is the right person to lead Takeda as a global company.
“I’m really keen to help Takeda to become the global leader in the pharmaceutical industry,” Weber said in the interview, adding, “I think we should move away from the nationality debate.”
While pledging to respect the values of Takeda established by his predecessors, Weber also said Takeda needs to globalize while maintaining its research and development investment of 350 billion yen ($3.4 billion) per year in order to be a globally competitive company.
“If we are not globalizing, we cannot have our…R&D engine strong enough to compete among the global leaders,” he said.
The dissident shareholders group, which accounted for less than a 3 percent stake in the company, claimed in the letter that the overseas expansion under Hasegawa’s leadership was too rapid and the investment in Millennium and Nycomed was mismanaged.
Takeda’s group sales expanded 23 percent between fiscal 2007 and 2013. But its net profit declined about 70 percent during the same period as income from its blockbuster drugs was compressed by the entry of lower-cost generics. The company is projecting an additional 20 percent fall in profit in the current business year through next March.