SEOUL Samsung Group, South Korea's largest conglomerate, said on Friday it planned to set up a biopharmaceutical joint venture with initial capital of 300 billion won ($264.4 million).
The plan, part of its planned 2.1 trillion won investment plan in the sector, comes amid a group-wide effort to expand into new business areas such as health care and green energy.
The group's units including tech giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, will partner with bio and pharmaceutical services provider Quintiles to create a contract manufacturer that will produce treatments for cancer and arthritis.
Samsung will start building a plant in Incheon, South Korea, in the first half of the year, with production expected in the first half of 2013, the company said in a statement.
The country's biggest business group is also looking to develop biosimilars, generic copies of biotech drugs used to treat complex diseases like cancer.
"We aim to launch another joint venture for biosimilars this year," Kim Tae-han, a Samsung senior executive, told a news briefing.
High margins on copycat versions of biotech drugs provide companies with an opportunity for revenue building, while global pharmaceutical players are faced with impending patent cliffs.
Samsung Electronics, which had mainly focused on organic growth, recently bought a majority stake in local medical equipment maker Medison, a move that may signal the cash-rich firm's return to the acquisition trail.
(Reporting by Yerim Kim and Ju-min Park; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)