Drug Firm Nycomed Seeks Buyer Or Partner

Nycomed, a privately held Swiss drug company, is looking for potential buyers in a deal that could be valued at as much as €10 billion ($13.57 billion), according to people familiar with the matter.

Nycomed has hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to initiate talks with pharmaceutical companies that could result in a sale of the whole firm, people familiar with the matter say. Other options include a licensing deal for Nycomed’s experimental lung-disease drug, Daxas, and a sale to outside investors through an initial public offering, the people say.

The potential sale comes amid a wave of pharmaceutical deals, including U.S. giant Merck & Co.’s agreement earlier this month to acquire Schering-Plough Corp. for $41 billion. It is too early to tell who may bid for Nycomed, but people with knowledge of the sales process said most major pharmaceutical firms will likely take a look.

Nycomed, based in Zurich, has a large business in Russia and the former Soviet Union, which could be of interest to big pharmaceutical companies looking to expand in emerging markets. Its global sales last year fell 4% to €3.35 billion, largely because one of the company’s biggest products — Protonix for acid reflux — faced competition in the U.S. from low-cost generics. Daxas, to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as smoker’s lung, could be a big seller if it is approved for sale in the U.S. and Europe.

Nycomed is owned by a handful of private-equity firms, including Nordic Capital and CSFB Alternative Capital. Nordic Capital is the lead investor, with roughly 40% of Nycomed, an investment dating back to 2005.

Private-equity firms typically look to sell companies three to five years after buying them. People familiar with the matter say Nycomed’s owners would prefer a sale of the whole company, in part because an IPO would be more complicated and turmoil in the financial markets has sharply curtailed demand for shares.

A Nycomed spokeswoman said the company’s search for a Daxas deal “is proceeding as planned” and that any decision on a sale or an IPO “will have to be taken by our owners.” Nycomed’s chief executive, Hakan Björklund, said in November that the company would consider an IPO once markets improved.

Nordic Capital, CSFB Alternative Capital and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

Nycomed had €4.3 billion of debt and €509 million of cash at the end of last year.

Source: Jeanne Whalen at jeanne.whalen@wsj.com and Dana Cimilluca at dana.cimilluca@wsj.com

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