NEW YORK Warburg Pincus LLC has mandated Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) to explore a sale of eye care company Bausch & Lomb Inc, hoping to fetch more than $10 billion (6 billion pounds), a person familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
The private equity firm has asked Goldman to approach potential buyers for Bausch & Lomb, including major healthcare companies, but could also turn to an initial public offering (IPO) as an alternative, the source said on condition of anonymity because discussions are confidential.
"Bausch & Lomb is regularly contacted by companies with strategic interest in our company, and we continue to aspire to a return to the public markets in the future," Bausch & Lomb spokesman Adam Grossberg said. "However, our focus remains on building the best global eye-health company, and therefore won't comment further".
Warburg Pincus and Goldman Sachs declined to comment. Bloomberg News reported on Goldman Sachs' appointment to sell Bausch & Lomb earlier on Tuesday.
Founded in 1853, Rochester, New York-based Bausch & Lomb makes contact lenses, eye drugs and surgical equipment and sells its products in more than 100 countries.
The company was taken private by Warburg Pincus in 2007 for about $4.5 billion, including $830 million of debt, after it fell out of Wall Street's favour because of product recalls, big charges and restatements of earnings.
Since then it has undergone a transformation under Chief Executive Brent Saunders, who joined in March 2010 and has built up the business through acquisitions, most recently taking over Germany's Technolas Perfect Vision GmbH, an eye laser firm, in November.
Bausch & Lomb's main competitors are healthcare heavyweights - Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), Novartis NOVN.VX and Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N) - for whom eye care is only a minor focus.
In an interview with Reuters in July, Saunders said his company aspired to return to the public markets and that it saw strong investor appetite for an IPO.
(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)