SEOUL, June 24 (Reuters) - South Korea’s Celltrion Inc said on Monday that Temasek, its key shareholder and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, has agreed to increase its stake in the biotech firm with an investment of about $130 million, as it awaits European approval of a key drug.
The deal comes after founder and Chief Executive Seo Jung-jin said in April that he would seek a buyer among multinational drugmakers for his controlling interest in the firm, once Remsima, a generic version of Merck & Co’s arthritis drug Remicade, is approved for sale in the European Union.
Celltrion expects a European decision on the drug later this week.
Celltrion said on Monday that unlisted Celltrion GSC would sell 150 billion won ($130 million) worth of shares in the firm to Temasek, which already owns 10.5 percent of the firm through its fully owned subsidiary Ion Investments.
“The additional investment reassures our vote of confidence in Celltrion’s business model and strategy,” Celltrion quoted Temasek’s investment managing director Fidah Alsagoff as saying.
Celltrion declined to give details on the exact size of Temasek’s stake after the deal.
Temasek bought 1 million shares of Celltrion in after-hours trade on Monday and plans to purchase more shares later this week, the statement said.
Celltrion GSC plans to use the proceeds to repay debt.
Shares of Celltrion, the largest stock on South Korea’s junior bourse with a market value of $5 billion as recently as March, closed up 3.9 percent on Monday. ($1 = 1152.2500 Korean won) (Reporting by Miyoung Kim; Editing by Chris Gallagher)