Medicines and dried seafoods retail distributor Hong Kong Pharmaceutical Holdings, formerly NPH International Holdings, will acquire other companies in a bid to transform into a full-range pharmaceutical company, according to company executives. Hong Kong Pharmaceutical deputy chairman and managing director Huang Shuyun said the recent acquisition of Hua Xin High Biotechnology, which makes drugs used in the treatment of cancer, was the first step in the company's transformation. The acquisition would allow the company to expand into pharmaceutical research, development and production. The mainboard-listed company was also looking to China where it hoped to snap up some medicinal retail businesses, Ms Huang said. 'We are now preparing the groundwork and once the Chinese Government opens the medicine market to foreign investors after its entry into the World Trade Organisation, we will be ready to enter,' she said. Preliminary talks have already been held between the company and a mainland medicines distribution network. However, progress depended on how fast the Beijing government opened up the sector to foreign players, Ms Huang said. Hong Kong Pharmaceutical is engaged in medicine retail distribution in Hong Kong, where it has more than 20 shops. Ms Huang said that the plan to develop retail networks in the mainland was part of the company's efforts to diversify and boost sales in its newly acquired drug manufacturing business, Hua Xin. Last month, Hong Kong Pharmaceutical invested HK$32.55 million to buy a 57 per cent stake in Hua Xin from Shanghai De Chang Investment Development. China Academy of Sciences' Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, through its subsidiaries, owns more than 20 per cent of Hua Xin. Established in 1993, Hua Xin is principally engaged in the research, development, manufacture and sale of bio-technological pharmaceutical products. It invested 81 million yuan (about HK$75.91 million) last year to expand its production facilities which increased its production capacity by 20 times to more than 150 million yuan a year for one product. Hua Xin obtained the Good Manufacturing Practice standard last December, making it one of the 36 such certified bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing enterprises in China. Drugs developed by Hua Xin focus on anti-viral and anti-tumour treatment, including Interleukin-2, a cancer drug that has been selling for four years. The company has eight drugs for which it has received the Chinese authorities' approval to carry out human clinical trials. Subsequent to the acquisition, Hong Kong Pharmaceutical was planning to invest heavily in sales and marketing to promote Shanghai Hua Xin High Biotechnology's products in North America and Middle East countries.