Ratiopharm Bidders To Be Whittled Down

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The field of bidders for Germany’s second-largest generic-drug maker Ratiopharm will be narrowed to one or two contestants this week, people familiar with the auction told Reuters on Monday.

A takeover contract for Ratiopharm, which is being sold to ease the debt burden of its owner, could be drawn up by the end of March, one source said.

The world’s largest generic-drug makers Teva (TEVA.TA), Actavis, backed by Swedish buyout firm EQT, and U.S. drug major Pfizer (PFE.N) have placed bids for the German firm, sources told Reuters on Feb 6.

The field had already narrowed from more than 10 bidders in the first round of bids in November.

The deal, which sources have said could be worth about 3 billion euros ($4 billion), looks set to be the biggest generics takeover since Teva’s $7.5 billion purchase of U.S. rival Barr, announced in July 2008.

Industrial heir Ludwig Merckle is selling Ratiopharm as part of concessions made to creditor banks by his late father Adolf Merckle, who committed suicide in January 2009 after losing control over his business empire to lenders.

Ratiopharm declined to comment as did Teva and EQT. Pfizer was not available for comment.

(Reporting by Frank Siebelt and Philipp Halstrick in Frankfurt, Tova Cohen in Tel Aviv; Writing by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Dan Lalor) ($1 = 0.7345 euro)