Italy's Sigma-Tau eyes sale of minority stake

Shopping for a drug-company stake? Almost half of Sigma-Tau may soon be available. A member of the Cavazza clan that owns the Italian drugmaker is looking at selling his 38 percent share, a move that could then lead to a $2 billion-plus IPO, sources tell Reuters.

Paolo Cavazza has hired Credit Suisse to advise him on a potential sale. His brother, chairman and majority shareholder Claudio Cavazza, may choose to sell part of his 57 percent stake, too, Reuters says. Up to 49 percent of the company could be up for grabs in a sale that would allow Claudio to retain his majority control.

Private equity firms are likely to be interested in such a deal, sources tell the news service. That's to be expected; PE groups have been buying up and selling off stakes in drugmakers around the world. "Private equity is gagging for good pharma investments," one financial source told Reuters. "They would clearly need to be comfortable around the ultimate exit, which may or may not be a stumbling block."

Meanwhile, Sigma-Tau has been eyeing an initial public offering to help fund foreign expansion. The company posted 2010 sales of €673 million, or about $973 million. Its portfolio of marketed products includes drugs for heart disease and cancer, and it has a presence in rare diseases, thanks to its 2010 buyout of Enzon Pharmaceuticals' specialty business.

- read the Reuters news