Exclusive: Merck in final talks to sell consumer unit for near $14 billion - sources

Sat Apr 26, 2014 3:22pm EDT
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By Anjuli Davies, Olivia Oran and Soyoung Kim

LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Merck & Co Inc is in the final stages of selling its consumer healthcare unit for close to $14 billion, with Bayer AG and Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc among final contenders to clinch a deal as soon as next week, people familiar with the matter said.

Germany's Bayer and British consumer products giant Reckitt have emerged as frontrunners to win the auction after each offering roughly $13.5 billion for the Merck consumer unit, best known for Coppertone sunscreen and Claritin allergy medicine, the sources said.

Both bidders are very keen to buy the asset and the price tag could go higher in the final days, one person added. All the people asked not to be named because the matter is not public.

Representatives for U.S. drugmaker Merck, as well as Bayer and Reckitt, declined to comment.

The sale would be the latest in a wave of healthcare deals in recent days, including Zimmer Holdings Inc's $13.35 billion acquisition of orthopaedics rival Biomet Inc and the agreement between Novartis AG and GlaxoSmithKline Plc to trade more than $20 billion worth of assets, with Eli Lilly and Co buying Novartis' animal health business for $5.4 billion.

At the same time, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc and Bill Ackman are locked in a $47 billion battle for Allergan Inc; Mylan Inc is seeking to buy Sweden's Meda AB for around $9 billion including debt; and there is talk of a $100 billion bid for AstraZeneca Plc from Pfizer Inc.


The deal surge has driven healthcare M&A volumes to $153.3 billion so far this year, the highest year-to-date level since Thomson Reuters has started tracking data. Pharmaceutical deals have accounted for 71 percent of overall healthcare deals.   Continued...