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Roche to expand presence in China
By Huo Yongzhe (China Business Weekly)
Updated: 2004-03-29 15:58

Roche Diagnostics, one of the three major business arms of pharmaceutical behemoth Roche, is set to continue its robust business growth in China in 2004, boosted by branch expansion and introduction of new products, said a senior official with the firm.

"We will expand our presence to more cities, such as Shenyang, Xi'an, Wuhan and Chengdu," said Felix Wang, head of Roche Diagnostics in charge of the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong business.

He was in Beijing last week attending a sponsorship programme to help children fight diabetes.

Currently, the company has established offices in Beijing, Guangzhou, Tianjin and Shanghai.

Shanghai is the headquarters and production base for its business in the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong.

"We can establish much more closer ties with our clients by extending our presence nationwide," said Wang, adding that the move is also of vital importance for the firm to line up with local partners.

"By lining up with local partners, we could get a win-win result through co-marketing," said Wang.

China is now home to more than 2,500 medical equipment producers, with a revenue of some 40 billion yuan (US$4.82 billion) generated annually.

Experts said the number could be increased to 50 billion yuan (US$6.03 billion) in 2005.

Debuted in 1999, the number of Roche Diagnostics's employees in China surged from the original 45 to the current 315, and the Chinese market has also become one of the company's most rapidly growing market segments worldwide.

Sales of its products in the China market -- the second largest following Japan in the Asia-Pacific region -- have witnessed an average 50 per cent growth in the past several years. But its contribution to its global portfolio is still marginal today, of some 2 per cent.

And its business lines already cover all of its major five areas, including applied science, centralized diagnostics, near patient testing, molecular diagnostics and diabetes care, which takes some one-fourth of its total China sales.

Roche, the company's parent, announced earlier this year that it will establish a research and development (R&D) centre in Shanghai, making it the seventh worldwide and also the first R&D facilities launched by the firm in developing countries.

"We are studying future technologies, such as gene and bio-tech chip technologies," said Wang.

On the company's growth agenda in China also includes possible plans of mergers and acquisitions.

"We are evaluating many investment plans, but they have not been finalized," Wang told reporters.

He declined to make any specific or detailed comments.

The company announced mid last year that it plans to kick off six bio-tech chip products before the end of 2004.

"A number of new products are set to be kicked off, and at least one bio-tech chip product is already in the testing stage," said Wang, adding that the company has already begun co-operation with domestic medical testing and certification institutions.

"But the testing and approval (of these products) still needs some time before it officially gets the green light to be introduced into the Chinese market," said Wang.

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