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Hikma Pharmaceuticals founder remembered as man who believed, invested in Jordan

By Omar Obeidat - May 16,2015 - Last updated at May 16,2015

AMMAN — Samih Darwazah, the founder of Hikma Pharmaceuticals, passed away on Friday at the age of 85. 

Born in Nablus in 1930, Darwazah established Hikma in 1978 when he returned to Jordan from the US, where he received a master’s degree in industrial pharmacy from St Louis College of Pharmacy, Missouri. 

The Amman-headquartered company, listed on the London Stock Exchange, is now the Middle East and North Africa’s (MENA) biggest pharmaceutical company thanks to his entrepreneurial talent and pioneering spirit, according to economists. 

The former senator, who served as minister of energy between 1995 and 1996, also founded the Jordan Exporters Association. 

On Saturday, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour paid tribute to Darwazah, who retired from his position as Hikma chairman in 2014. 

Economist Zayyan Zawaneh described him as a man who believed in Jordan by investing in it, and the country did not let him down.

The relationship between Hikma and the public sector was a genuine demonstration of the partnership between the public and private sectors, he said. 

Zawaneh noted that Jordan currently enjoys an international reputation in drug manufacturing, thanks to Darwazah, through Hikma Pharmaceuticals, and pharmaceuticals represent a major share of the Kingdom’s overall exports 

“Darwazah built an empire of pharmaceuticals in a tough world and large international conglomerates,” said Senator Jawad Anani, former Royal Court chief and several-time minister. 

At the time of its foundation, Hikma was focused on establishing its brand in the MENA region, Anani said, and expanded beyond by establishing injectable pharmaceutical operations in Portugal in 1990s before reaching the US market.

“We have to celebrate a great success story. May God bless his soul,” Anani told The Jordan Times. 

According to its website, Hikma is the fifth largest pharmaceutical manufacturing company in the MENA region, with 13 manufacturing plants, including five facilities in Jordan, two in Portugal, and operations in Italy, Algeria, Germany, Egypt, the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Jordan Pharmacists Association President Ahmad Issa also paid tribute to Darwazah, saying Jordan and the region have lost a pillar of the industry.

He left an indelible mark on Jordan’s economy and the international drug manufacturing sector, Issa said. 

Hikma exports represent around 7 per cent of national exports, and the company is the region’s number one drug maker, he added. 

National exports in 2014 stood at around JD5.9 billion. 

“He is a self-made man who is a source of pride and an idol for all Jordanians. His legacy will live on,” Issa said, noting that Hikma is currently present in 78 countries worldwide. 

Maher Mahrouq, director of the Jordan Chamber of Industry, said Darwazah was a real entrepreneur with a “great vision”. 

The global pharmaceutical industry is very competitive and Hikma has a large international market with a good reputation, Mahrouq added. 

Before starting his journey with Hikma, Darwazah worked at US pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly between 1964 and 1976. 

In 2004, he received the Kingdom’s Order of Independence first class and in 2007 he was named as the Ernst & Young Middle East entrepreneur of the year. 

In 2013, Darwazah ranked first on the Emerging Markets Leaders 100 list released by Scrip magazine, which is specialised in the pharmaceutical industry.

According to Hikma financial statements, revenues generated by the company in 2014 reached $1.49 billion, while gross profits were $581 million. 

Key events in Hikma history:

1978: Commenced manufacturing branded generic pharmaceutical products in Jordan for the Middle East market

1980: Acquired land in Sintra, Portugal for the construction of an approved manufacturing plant for injectable pharmaceutical products

1991: Entered the US market through the acquisition of West-Ward Pharmaceutical Corp.

1993: Entered the Tunisian market through the acquisition of a minority stake in Industries Pharmaceutiques Ibn Al Baytar

1999: Started manufacturing operations of Jazeera Pharmaceutical Industries in Saudi Arabia

2003: The injectables business commenced commercial scale production of liquid injectables 

2005: Listed on the London Stock Exchange

2006: Started manufacturing operations in Trust Pharma Algeria

2007: Expanded into the generic injectable oncology market through the acquisition of Ribosepharm GmbH and Thymoorgan in Germany

2007: Entered the Egyptian market through the acquisition of Alkan Pharma

2011: Entered the Moroccan market through the acquisition of Société de Promotion Pharmaceutique du Maghreb 

2011: Acquired minority stakes in Unimark Remedies Limited in India and in the Chinese Hubei Hauson Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.

2013: Entered the Ethiopian market through a joint venture with MIDROC Pharmaceuticals Limited


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