Actavis, Sanofi, Boehringer jockey bids for OTC specialist Omega Pharma

Actavis ($ACT) seems to have a finger in every pie lately when it comes to pharma M&A, and rumor has it Omega Pharma's sales process is no exception.

The company is duking it out with Sanofi ($SNY), Perrigo ($PRGO) and Boehringer Ingelheim for the Belgian drugmaker, Bloomberg's sources say, with final offers for Omega due by the beginning of November. Industry-watchers have said a sale could fetch as much as €4 billion, or $5.1 billion.

It's just the latest clue into the deals Actavis may have up its sleeve. The company, which already has major pickups for Warner Chilcott and Forest Laboratories in its not-so-distant past, recently approached Valeant ($VRX) target Allergan ($AGN) about a deal, but the Botox-maker rebuffed it with the belief it was closing in on North Carolina-based Salix ($SLXP). So what did Actavis do next? Get busy talking with Salix on a deal of its own, of course.

But on the flip side, Actavis' name has come up plenty on the other side of things, too, namely as a back-up target for Pfizer ($PFE) if it opts not to go after AstraZeneca ($AZN) a second time. In late September, the news service reported that Pfizer was indeed shopping Actavis, but that talks didn't appear active at the moment.

Whoever does land Omega will pick up some heft in the consumer health arena, with the company boasting about 2,000 brands. Its sales swelled 16% to €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) last year thanks to strong performances in Germany, the U.K., Ireland, France, Russia and elsewhere.

And as the crowded bidding landscape shows, plenty of drugmakers wouldn't mind adding that kind of top-line firepower in OTC. Sanofi has bulked up considerably over the last few years in that arena, and Novartis ($NVS) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) will next year launch a consumer health JV that could make the team the field's world leader. That's a spot Bayer says it's coveting, too, and to that end it nabbed Merck's ($MRK) consumer unit in a $14.2 billion deal this May.

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