Is Pfizer drawing near to a $2B deal for Strides' injectables unit?

Pfizer ($PFE) is getting serious about a deal for Agila Specialties, the Indian maker of injectable generics, or so the story goes. A unit of Strides Arcolab, Agila has been on the block since last year--and Pfizer has been rumored among the possible buyers--but sources now tell Bloomberg that the U.S. drugmaker is digging through Agila's books, doing due diligence for a possible purchase.

Other companies are said to be interested as well--including Mylan ($MYL), Novartis ($NVS), and Germany's Fresenius, presumably through its drugs unit Fresenius Kabi--with a deal valued at $1.6 billion to $2 billion.

Pfizer has an existing supply arrangement with Strides, which involves some 38 injectables, primarily cancer drugs, for the U.S., E.U. and several Asian markets. The tie-up, begun in January 2010 and expanded soon after, is part of Pfizer's build-up in generics as an off-set to competition for newly off-patent drugs. Other Big Pharmas have tapped Strides as a supplier as well, including Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK).

At a time when injectable drugs are running scarce, Agila could be a plum purchase for another drugmaker. The company has a growing manufacturing network, with 14 plants in 6 countries, and it has a reputation for quality. Its sales are growing fast; 10 billion rupees ($183 million) for the first 9 months of its fiscal year, up from 7.4 billion rupees ($135 million).

If Pfizer really is eyeing an eventual spinoff of its established products unit, as new comments from a top executive suggest, then it will likely be looking for ways to build up its generics business in advance. An Agila deal might do just that.

- see the Bloomberg story