With Bristol-Myers weighing an OTC sale, could Procter & Gamble bite for more pharma assets?

Handshake business deal executives
Procter & Gamble in April agreed to snap up Merck KGaA's consumer health unit for $4.2 billion. (Pixabay)

Procter & Gamble has already bought one consumer division from Big Pharma this year. But with Bristol-Myers Squibb’s European OTC unit potentially up for sale, could it go for another?

Maybe, according to Reuters’ sources. The news service listed P&G—along with Stada, Zentiva, Mylan and Recordati—as likely suitors. But a few of those companies are in flux; Stada was taken over by private equity firms Bain Capital and Cinven last September, and Sanofi recently sold off Zentiva to Advent for €1.9 billion.

Italy’s rare disease pharma Recordati just agreed to sell a controlling stake to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners for about $3.5 billion, which would theoretically give it cash to make a deal. And U.S.-based generics giant Mylan has shown plenty of appetite for buyouts in the past.

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RELATED: Bristol-Myers Squibb looks to sell French OTC unit which could bring $1.8B: report

When it comes to M&A, though, Bristol-Myers and P&G have history, the Cincinnati Business Courier points out. Back in 2001, P&G shelled out $4.95 billion to snag haircare brands under the Clairol umbrella from the New Jersey drugmaker. A deal for BMS’ French OTC business, Upsa, would be smaller at up to €1.5 billion ($1.8 billion), Reuters’ sources say.

Plus P&G chief David Taylor is on a dealmaking roll, the Courier says. He’s racked up four buys in recent months, including a €3.4 billion ($4.21 billion) deal for a Merck KGaA consumer health unit that boasts more than 900 products across 44 countries.

RELATED: Merck KGaA, not Pfizer, lands consumer health deal with P&G worth $4.2B

If a deal between P&G and Bristol doesn’t pan out, though, it wouldn’t be the first time this year that P&G-Big Pharma rumors went nowhere. Shortly before Merck KGaA unveiled its P&G consumer sale, the company was reportedly eyeing a pricier Pfizer consumer unit for which the pharma giant ultimately couldn’t find a buyer.

Meanwhile, as Bristol weighs its options, it joins a slew of drugmakers bowing out—or trying to bow out—of the consumer health arena. Along with Merck KGaA, Novartis also exited the space this year, agreeing to hand over its share of its joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline in exchange for $13 billion from the British drugmaker. And two years ago, Boehringer Ingelheim traded away its own unit to Sanofi in exchange for the French pharma’s animal health business.