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Mexico Pharmaceutical Firms Find They Rank No. 2 Among Manufacturers

--Mexican market seen as essential for global pharmaceutical firms --Industry accounts for 1.2% of Mexican GDP --Underutilized manufacturing capacity leaves room for export growth By Amy Guthrie MEXICO CITY--Mexican pharmaceutical companies were surprised to discover recently that they represent the country's second-biggest manufacturing sector. The sheer size of the Mexican market, with a population of more than 112 million people and around 2.5 billion unit sales of medication a year, makes the country a strategic market for multinational pharmaceutical firms such as Pfizer Corp. (PFE), Novartis AG (NVS), Merck & Co. (MRK) and Sanofi (SNY), although market share is highly fragmented. But it wasn't until industry chamber Canifarma concluded an assessment this month using data from its 186 affiliates that it realized its own heft. With projected annual sales of 195.20 billion pesos ($14 billion) for 2012, pharmaceuticals are second only to automobiles in terms of importance to Mexico's manufacturing-heavy economy. Manufacturing as a whole accounts for more than 17% of Mexico's $1 trillion annual gross domestic product; pharmaceuticals supply 7.2% of manufacturing GDP and 1.2% of overall GDP, Canifarma says. In addition, the industry attracts about $1.52 billion a year in investment, or more than 8% of the foreign direct investment the entire country receives annually. "We're more relevant than we thought," said Rogelio Ambrosi, president of Canifarma and chief executive of Merck's Mexican operations, in an interview. Merck claims just over 3% of Mexican pharmaceutical sales. The Canifarma data show that the Mexican domestic economy is also a bright spot in a troubled international economic environment. Annual sales of medicine, including for veterinary use, have grown in Mexico by more than 6% sequentially in recent years. Research firm Decision Resources calculates annual global pharmaceutical sales at just over $700 billion, with U.S. consumers accounting for almost half that amount. Rising sales in emerging markets such as Mexico are compensating for stagnating and even declining sales in developed countries. Three quarters of the medicine sold in Mexico is produced domestically, but the industry is operating at only 70% of installed manufacturing capacity. The industry group figures that Mexican manufacturers will export $1.2 billion in pharmaceuticals this year, with 65% of the export volume heading for other parts of Latin America. Some Mexican pharmaceuticals factories are recognized by foreign health authorities, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, while the industry as a whole is seeking certification from the Pan American Health Organization. Such recognitions could facilitate export growth. Write to Amy Guthrie at amy.guthrie@dowjones.com.

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