Bayer's $1.2B bid for vitamin maker topped by U.K. group

The aggressive diversification campaign of Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers has been checked, at least temporarily, by Reckitt Benckiser Group, which has moved on Schiff Nutrition International with a bid of its own.

The British consumer goods maker of such products as Durex condoms anted up $1.4 billion, or $42 a share, for Schiff, $200 million more than Bayer's $1.2 billion offer made last month, Reuters reports.  Bayer had no comment but the Reckitt move sets the stage for a bidding war for the vitamin maker.

While vitamins and supplements lack the same profit margins as branded drugs, they are a growing market and don't carry the development costs and same level of regulatory oversight as medications. Schiff has in its cupboards such products as Airborne brand of cold-prevention products and Tiger's Milk nutrition bars.

Dekkers was headed in the same general diversification direction as some peers at companies like GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) with its line of sports drinks and Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($VRX), which recently grabbed a Brazilian supplements maker. Dekkers added to Bayer's animal health business recently by agreeing to pay Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA) $145 million for its animal health business.

Given the size of this deal and the unknowns of an auction, this move by Reckitt Benckiser will test Dekkers resolve on diversification.

- read the Reuters story