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March 31, 2005

A "Private Investment for Royalties from a Public Enterprise's Future Revenues" deal

While it has moved away (like most other VCs in India) from investing in early-stage companies, ICICI Venture Funds continues to innovate when it comes to creating novel deal structures for financing late-stage companies.

The latest example of this is the fund's $56 million investment commitment to Hyderabad based, publicly listed pharmaceuticals firm Dr Reddy's Laboratories to finance the latter's new drug R&D. Dr. Reddy's would use the money from I-Venture to fund the development, registration and legal costs related to the commercialisation of Abbreviated New Drug Applications (ANDAs) for two years. In return, ICICI Venture will be paid a royalty by Dr. Reddy's pegged to the latter's net sales for a period of 5 years.

Given that new drug R&D is a high-investment, high-risk, but high-reward business, the partnership between a private equity firm which has access to a lot of capital and an established pharmaceuticals firm which has pioneered original R&D in India, seems to be an ideal one. It would be interesting to see if the deal kicks off a trend.

UPDATE: Here is what Ms. Bala Deshpande told TSJ Media, when we suggested to her that the deal resembled debt-financing in some ways:

"The DRL deal has been an innovative structure crafted to suit the growth needs of the company. We would not however deem as debt-financing in fact it is probably more true-blue private equity deal than some of the recent deals. The bet is on the R&D capability of the company and the US generic market opportunity. We will be as any VC sharing the risk-reward with the company."

Arun Natarajan is the Editor of TSJ Media, which tracks venture capital activity in India and Indian-founded companies worldwide. View sample issues of TSJ Media's Venture Intelligence India newsletters and reports.