Solvay bidders, start your engines

Slowly but surely, Solvay is moving toward a sale of its pharmaceuticals unit. First came the rumors: Sanofi-Aventis may or may not have made an "inadequate" offer. Then, last week, the company admitted that it needed to change, and maybe that change would include spinning off its pharma business. Now, Solvay plans to circulate a memo about the unit to potential buyers--an RFP of sorts.

Sources are telling Reuters that Solvay will issue "books," which are essentially marketing documents, to potential bidders. Preliminary bids are expected to be due in the first half of June, with a second round after serious bidders get a look at the nitty-gritty on the company.

Just how big could this deal be? $6.6 billion at the high end, analysts estimate. (The unit's 2008 sales amounted to $3.59 billion.) In addition to Sanofi, the companies said to be kicking tires at Solvay include Novartis, Bayer, AstraZeneca, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Abbott Laboratories.

- read the Reuters story