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ABL Bio to buy partner's stake in Shantha Marine

Our Bureau

Chennai , March 29

THE Chennai-based ABL Biotechnologies Ltd will acquire the entire stake in Shantha Marine Biotechnologies Pvt Ltd, a joint venture it promoted with Shantha Biotechnics Pvt Ltd of Hyderabad.

Mr K.O. Isaac, Managing Director, ABL Biotechnologies, told newspersons on Monday that Shantha Biotechnics would exit the partnership following a recent agreement.

Either ABL or a strategic partner to be identified by ABL will acquire the 60 per cent equity held by Shantha Biotechnics. The remaining Rs 3.5-crore equity is held by ABL.

The Rs 12-crore joint venture was promoted in 2000 to culture a marine alga and extract provitamin-A, beta carotene, based on technology developed by ABL.

Shantha Marine Biotechnologies produced over 75 formulations of beta carotene-based products, which it sold to over 40 major pharmaceutical companies, he said.

To restructure the company, ABL will commercialise more products, widen its market, introduce beta carotene-fortified food products, and infuse more funds into the project through a strategic partner.

As of now, a Texas-based biotechnology company, Samudra Technologies Inc - part of the $25-million Bionexus group - is set to partner with ABL.

According to Mr Venkata S. Santhanaraman, President, Samudra, discussions are at a preliminary stage but the company is looking at bringing in about $5 million.

Samudra will take dietary supplements produced by the joint venture to markets in the US.

This move means that ABL Biotechnologies, in addition to being a research and development company, will directly get into commercialisation and marketing.

ABL has been working on extracting biochemicals from marine micro-organisms for use by the food and pharmaceutical industry.

In the pipeline are a host of anti-viral and anti-microbial products and those that can be applied in various segments like child health, diabetes, ophthalmology and dermatology, according to Mr Isaac.

Shantha Marine is in the process of introducing in the domestic and export markets beta carotene-fortified food products like jams, squashes, cooking oils and chocolates. These can be used by diabetic patients with a beneficial impact on their condition, Mr Isaac added.

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