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(Adds CEO comment, recasts with China)
JOHANNESBURG, March 9 (Reuters) - South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare forecasts sales of about 2 billion rand ($152 million) in China over the next 12 months, the drugmaker's chief executive said on Thursday after reporting a 6 percent rise in first-half profit.
Aspen started trading in China in the six months to end-December and is chasing growth in the world's second largest pharmaceutical market with its recently acquired portfolio of medicines from AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.
"I think we'll do sales of about 2 billion over the next 12 months," Stephen Saad told Reuters, referring to China, and compared to sales of 0.6 billion rand to end-December.
In Asia, the business has expanded substantially with the addition of AstraZeneca anaesthetics, the firm said in a statement, boosting total sales for the six months to 19.8 billion rand, up 13 percent on a year earlier.
Aspen said normalised headline earnings per share rose to 692 cents from 656 cents.
Headline EPS is the main profit measure in South Africa and strips out certain one-off items.
The firm acquired the marketing rights to a portfolio of anaesthetics from AstraZeneca in September last year for $770 million and will add almost all of GlaxoSmithKline's anaesthetics from this month.
The deals have made Aspen the largest anaesthetics seller outside the United States, Saad said, adding that the new products can be distributed through the networks it set up earlier for thrombosis medicines.
"For anaesthetics we haven't had massive incremental expenses because we are able to use our existing commercial footprint," Saad said.
Shares in Aspen were up 0.2 percent at 275.25 rand by 0851 GMT, compared with a 0.7 percent drop in the JSE's benchmark Top-40 index.
Reporting by TJ Strydom and Tiisetso Motsoeneng; editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Jason Neely