British multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will exit Nigeria, after 51 years of operation in Africa's biggest economy.

GSK Plc, which owns a controlling ownership in the Nigerian company, will choose third-party distributors to distribute its prescription medications and vaccines in the country, it said in a statement.

Haleon, GSK's consumer health subsidiary that was spun out last year and produces medicines such as Panadol pain relievers and Sensodyne toothpaste, also announced a transition to a third-party distribution arrangement.

“The Board of GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc has concluded that there is no alternative but to cease operations,” GSK Nigeria said in a statement signed by its company secretary, Frederick Ichekwai on Thursday.

Although no reason was provided for the agreements' cancellation, GSK Nigeria previously stated that it was struggling to keep supply of its pharmaceutical and vaccine goods in the country due to a lack of dollars to import ingredients. 

Nigeria's central bank has restricted foreign currency sales to corporations in order to assist manage the naira's value and protect its foreign-exchange reserves. 

Its reserves have been squeezed due to a reduction in oil revenue, which account for around 80% of export profits. 

GSK Nigeria has previously said its half-year sales had declined to 10 million from 14.8 billion naira in the same period last year due to rising competition from local competitors and imports from India and China.

The company said its board will disclose its steps to Nigeria's Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

"A draft Scheme of Arrangement which may, if approved, see shareholders other than GSK UK, receive an accelerated cash distribution and return of capital,” it said.

“Shareholders are advised to seek professional advice and continue to exercise caution when dealing in the company’s shares until a further announcement is made.”

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc was incorporated in Nigeria on 23rd June 1971 and commenced business on 1st July 1972, under the name Beecham Limited. The Company was listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 1977. 

(Editing by Seban Scaria