Big Pharmas eye Stiefel Labs buy

A deal a day keeps boredom away. Thank goodness, then, for Stiefel Laboratories. The dermatology drug specialist has put itself up for sale, and more than one big-name pharma firm is interested. The deal could be worth several billion dollars.

Among the tire kickers are Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline, sources told the Wall Street Journal. The sources also said that Stiefel is looking for $3 billion to $4 billion. The company, however, won't confirm that it's even soliciting offers. "Like any business, if we received an offer it would be carefully considered," a spokeswoman said.

Here's some company background: For more than 160 years, the Stiefel family has controlled the company, which makes anti-itch creams, acne treatments, and other skin remedies. Blackstone Group, the private-equity firm, invested about half a billion in the company in 2007, in return for a "substantial" minority stake. Some media reports say Blackstone is traffic-copping the potential sale.

Why would a J&J or Glaxo want Stiefel? Diversification, for one thing. And dermatology treatments, the WSJ points out, are hot because of the aging global population and ongoing interest in looking young.

- read the Journal story