AZ's dental unit attracts a slew of suitors

AstraZeneca might get the $2 billion or so it's hoping to collect on the sale of its Astra Tech dental implants business. Reuters reports that about 20 bidders are in the running for the group, which is based in Sweden. It's the world's third-biggest maker of dental implants with $535 million in 2010 sales, but also makes some medical devices.

Sources close to the bid process tell the news service that AstraZeneca marketed the company to medical technology companies and private equity firms, weeding out dozens of potential bidders with an initial screening. Preliminary bids are due next month. The company is welcoming bids for the entire business, or for either the dental-implants piece or the devices piece, Reuters says.

As Reuters points out, AstraZeneca is further focusing on its core drugs business rather than diversifying into other fields, as some of its Big Pharma rivals have. The company also is looking to increase shareholder return, and it announced a $4 billion buyback program last month. The Astra Tech sale could provide a hefty chunk of cash to help cover that buyback.

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