GSK eyes purchase of Bayer's drugs arm

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The Independent Online

Glaxosmithkline, the world's largest drugs group, has approached the German chemicals company Bayer about buying its troubled pharmaceuticals unit, which has been rocked by the sudden withdrawal of its anti-cholesterol drug Baycol.

The overtures are being made by a unit within GSK that scouts for acquisitions, and it is not thought that the group has engaged bankers. GSK's European rivals, Roche and Novartis, are thought to be eyeing up the Bayer division, which analysts estimate could fetch as much as $15bn (£10.3bn).

Bayer signalled it was open to offers for the unit earlier this month, when it warned that 4,000 jobs could be lost as a result of the failure of Baycol. The drug was withdrawn after being linked to 52 patients' deaths. However, Bayer is thought to have indicated that it will give serious consideration to offers only after it has completed a thorough strategic review of the business. It has stated publicly that it has already received expressions of interest from two companies, with one thought to be GSK.

Bayer and GSK are on the receiving end of lawsuits over Baycol, which GSK marketed in the US. Lawyers bringing a case on behalf of a resident of New Jersey said last Friday that their case would be one of the largest litigations in US pharmaceutical history.

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