Pharma firms are front-runners for Ratiopharm

It looks as if the Merckle family isn't enamored of private equity's bids for Ratiopharm. If Bloomberg's sources are right, three drugmakers are the front-runners in the race for a deal. According to those sources, fellow generics maker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Chinese drugmaker Sinopharm, and French-based Big Pharma Sanofi-Aventis are leading contenders for the buyout.

Ratiopharm is on the block as the family of Adolf Merckle sells assets to pay off debt. Merckle committed suicide in January after his empire all but imploded in the financial crisis. The generics maker has attracted quite a bit of interest in the market, with several private equity investors--including TPG and Permira Advisers--as well as a half-dozen drugmakers lodging first-round bids.

Next steps: Four to six potential buyers will be invited to continue negotiations, Bloomberg reports. Offers less than 2 billion euros ($3 billion) are being rejected out of hand. Besides Teva, Sinopharm and Sanofi, other drugmakers who reportedly are still interested in all or part of Ratiopharm include Mylan, Watson Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer.

- read the Bloomberg news