Nycomed Hires Goldman To Weigh Sale

LONDON (Reuters) – Privately owned Swiss drugmaker Nycomed has hired Goldman Sachs (GS.N) to explore a possible sale of the company, the Wall Street Journal reported online on Monday.

The paper, citing people familiar with the matter, said it was looking for potential buyers in a deal that could be worth as much as 10 billion euros ($13.6 billion).

A sale of the business would not come as great surprise to many in the pharmaceutical industry, since Nycomed is developing an interesting experimental lung drug called Daxas and also has a business in emerging markets that could attract big players.

“We are searching for a Daxas partner and this is proceeding as planned,” Nycomed spokeswoman Beatrix Benz told Reuters.

She said Nycomed had received “a lot of” partnering proposals for the drug and was evaluating these.

“The decision for selling Nycomed or an IPO (initial public offering) would have to be taken by our owners,” she added.

Officials at Nordic Capital, which owns 41 percent of Nycomed, did not immediately return a request from Reuters for comment.

A Goldman Sachs spokeswoman declined to comment.

Nycomed’s chief executive, Hakan Bjorklund, told Reuters last November he was ready for an IPO in 2009, if market conditions improved, and the Wall Street Journal said this remained an option.

Nycomed has also been looking for a marketing partner for Daxas, which some analysts believe could become a major seller. Bjorklund said five months ago that Nycomed had already received expressions of interest in the medicine from several firms.

Daxas targets patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or “smoker’s lung.”

Nycomed acquired Daxas after buying the drugs arm of German chemicals group Altana (ALTG.DE) in 2006.

If approved, Nycomed’s oral drug could compete with GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK.L) Advair and Spiriva, marketed by Pfizer (PFE.N) and Boehringer Ingelheim, although it works in a different way by targeting an enzyme called phosphodiesterase 4 involved in inflammation.

Nycomed, based in Zurich, also has a large business in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

Its global sales last year fell 4 percent to 3.35 billion euros, hit by generic competition to Protonix, a medicine for acid reflux. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler, Sam Cage and Quentin Webb; Editing by Bernard Orr)