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* Gets access to $1 bln drugs market
* Expected to cater to other African countries in future
* Africa sales rose 23 percent to $189 million in 2011
MUMBAI, March 12 (Reuters) - Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd , India’s top drugmaker by sales, said its Moroccan unit has started functioning, giving it direct access to a $1 billion pharmaceuticals market.
The unit, Ranbaxy’s third in Africa, will also help the company supply products to other north African countries in future, it said on Monday.
Ranbaxy’s Africa sales rose 23 percent to $189 million in 2011, it had said last month.
The drugmaker, majority owned by Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo , has sales staff of about 1,000 in 44 African countries and makes drugs in Nigeria and South Africa.
“The African market is not saturated and hence, generic drugmakers have good business opportunity there,” said a Mumbai-based analyst.
“The unit will help Ranbaxy push sales significantly over the next 24 months.”
The pharma company, which resolved compliance-related disputes with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month, has said it expected consolidated sales rising at least 10 percent to $2.2 billion in 2012.
It also launched the generic version of Pfizer’s cholesterol lowering drug, Lipitor in the United States on Dec. 1. The drug was launched in Australia in February followed by four European countries early this month.
Valued about $3.5 billion by the market, shares in Ranbaxy Laboratories were up 0.94 percent at 418.75 rupees at 12:56 p.m. (0726 GMT). The main stock index was up 0.5 percent. (Reporting by Kaustubh Kulkarni; Editing by Rajesh Pandathil)