Avista adds pharma head to healthcare team

The firm has appointed former Nycomed CEO Håkan Björklund to assist the firm with portfolio companies’ expansion into global markets.

Avista Capital Partners has hired Håkan Björklund to join its management team as a healthcare operating executive, the firm announced in a statement. Björklund is the former chief executive officer of Avista portfolio company Nycomed, a Scandinavian pharmaceutical company.

Björklund will contribute to deal sourcing, as well as the expansion of the firm’s healthcare holdings into global markets.

“There will increasingly be opportunities with the ongoing trend of big pharma divesting non-core businesses, which we’ve done several investments in the last several years.” Avista co-founder and CEO Tom Dean told Private Equity International. “One of the reasons we are excited to have Håkan join us, is that we think increasingly in Europe you’re going to see family-owned businesses potentially selling because they have done a very nice job in their own country, but they might need a vision to take them and build globally – especially in emerging markets.”

The firm has several deals, including those in the pharmaceutical sector, in the pipeline, he added.

Avista was one of several private equity investors to score big with Nycomed. The company, which was also backed by Nordic Capital DLJ Merchant Banking (the buyout arm of investment bank Credit Suisse) and Coller International Partners, was sold to Takeda Pharmaceutical Company for €9.6 billion in May.

Under Björklund, Nycomed expanded into new markets in Europe, Russia and Latin America, the firm said in a statement. The company purchased Altana Pharmaceutical for €4.2 billion in 2006, and expanded into China through its acquisition of Guangdong Techpool Bio-Pharma in 2010.

“Moving into the emerging markets is not easy,” Björklund said in an interview. “First of all you need to have some kind of local knowledge. These markets, they’re all different, they’re all difficult, but of course they’re also very exciting in that they’re growing.”

Private equity firms have been particularly active in the pharmaceutical sector lately. Last week, The Carlyle Group and Hellman & Friedman announced that they are poised to acquire Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD) in a $3.9 billion take-private.

The promise of high exit multiples has also led several firms to enter the sector. KPS Capital Partners’ August sale of Attends Healthcare generated a 15x cash-on-cash return and a 120 percent internal rate of return. CCMP Capital made five times its money after selling Medicare services company CareMore Health Group to health benefits company WellPoint in June.

Avista was founded in 2005 as a spinout from Credit Suisse First Boston. The firm announced that it had fully deployed its second fund, which closed last year on $1.8 billion, in June.