Family owners eye bids for Italy's Rottapharm

On the heels of last week's news that family-owned Italian drugmaker Sigma Tau was up for sale, the family-owned Italian drugmaker Rottapharm|Madaus has hit the auction block, the Wall Street Journal reports. So far, sources have pointed to potential private equity bidders, but other drugmakers might also be browsing. The price? As much as $2.9 bilion.

Like Sigma Tau, Rottapharm is looking at selling outright or at selling a stake in the company. The WSJ reports that Rottapharm chief Luigi Rovati and his team are meeting this week with potential bidders, including London-based Apax Partners, which recently bought into the device firm Kinetic Concepts. Other private equity bidders are also said to be involved. No word on whether pharma companies are also in the fray.

The 83-year-old Rovati started Rottapharm 50 years ago. The company now markets prescription meds, including blood pressure remedies, blood thinners, hormone replacement drugs, gastrointestinal treatments, and respiratory drugs. In its pipeline are two Phase III meds, one for irritable bowel and another for asthma. It also sells some consumer healthcare products. Total 2010 revenues: €600 million, or about $853 million.

- see the WSJ story