GSK in bidding for Bristol Myers -Squibb sale

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Glaxosmithkline has emerged as a possible contender to buy $200m worth of painkillers and other over-the-counter medicines put up for sale by the US drug maker Bristol Myers-Squibb.

The UK pharmaceuticals giant is believed to be examining whether to bid for all or part of the BMS portfolio, which includes the Excedrin range of painkillers, the Comtrex cold medicine and Keri lotion.

BMS is examining the sale of some or all of its over-the-counter business - worth in aggregate an estimated $700m-$1bn - in order to concentrate on prescription medicines. The painkillers alone are expected to fetch $200m. The division has been a disappointment in recent years for BMS, after poor sales of a new product, Excedrin QuickTabs.

If GSK decides to bid, it is likely to face competition from private equity groups and possibly from other large pharmaceuticals companies with significant non-prescription drug divisions, including Johnson & Johnson of the US and Bayer of Germany.

Bayer bought the over-the-count er drugs business of Switzerland's Roche last year for £2.4bn. The private equity houses which bid unsuccessfully that time included Cinven, BC Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and PAI.

Neither BMS nor GSK would comment yesterday.