(Bloomberg) -- Lotte Corp is buying one of Bristol Myers Squibb’s pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities for $160 million, as the Korean chaebol seeks to diversify its operations and enter the health care sector.

The group’s board on Friday approved the acquisition of BMS’s drug-making plant in Syracuse, New York, Lotte said in a statement. The deal is expected to close by second half of 2022. 

“We are pleased to add this state-of-the-art facility to our global pharma operations, which will enable us to rapidly scale and expand,” said Hunki Lee, executive vice president for the group’s contract drug manufacturing business in North America. The BMS plant in New York used to make 70% of the world’s penicillin supplies until the mid-2000s, but has since been manufacturing biopharmaceutical products.

Lotte Corp -- the holding company of Lotto Group which is South Korea’s fifth-largest conglomerate with businesses spanning food, retail, chemicals and hotels -- has identified the health care sector as its new growth engine and aims to invest 2.5 trillion won (about $2 billion) over the next decade to bolster this presence, according to the statement. It also plans to set up Lotte Biologics, its new drug-making unit, by the end of this month, it added.

The US acquisition as well as the investment commitment underscores Lotte’s push into growing its health care and biologics operations as the Covid-19 outbreaks continue to hobble economies -- mostly in Asia now -- more than two years after the pandemic first brought the world to a standstill.

It’s also following its country peers, including Samsung Biologics and SK Bioscience, whose bio units have grown sharply during the pandemic as they churned out Covid vaccines and treatments licensed from global drug makers. 

The transaction also gives Lotte a strong footing in the U.S. after recent setbacks such as looking to offload its halted theme-park project in northeastern China amid geopolitical tensions. 

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