FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Italian healthcare group Bracco is working on a potential bid for the radiology supplies unit that Germany's Bayer AG (BAYGn.DE) is considering selling, people close to the matter said.
Bracco has mandated an investment bank to find a partner for a possible joint offer for the unit, which may be valued at more than 4 billion euros (4.3 billion), they said.
The asset has also caught the eye of French peer Guerbet (GRBT.PA), which has also been in talks with potential partners, they said.
Bayer has not yet made a final decision on whether it will sell, but earlier this year mandated Goldman Sachs as a sellside advisor and sent out information to prospective buyers, the people said, adding that the auction had been expected to start next year.
Bracco declined to comment, while Guerbet was not immediately available for comment.
Bayer said in a statement that the radiology business is not for sale, declining further comment.
The German chemicals and healthcare company is acquiring U.S. seed maker Monsanto (MON.N), but has said it does not depend on any assets from the sale of the radiology unit to finance the $66 billion deal.
Bayer is also offering the radiology unit to private equity groups interested in healthcare assets such as Advent, Carlyle or Cinven, the sources said, adding that a tie-up with a strategic bidder would likely give them an edge in a potential auction.
The radiology business generates more than 1.5 billion euros in revenue.
Bayer has been taking steps to narrow the focus of its healthcare division to prescription pharmaceuticals and consumer care products.
In 2014, it sold a unit making vascular catheters to Boston Scientific Corp (BSX.N) for $415 million, followed by the sale of a blood glucose meter business to Panasonic Healthcare Holdings for 1.02 billion euros last year.
Bayer has not yet completed the sale of it dermatology unit put up for sale earlier this year, and for which it hopes to fetch up to 1 billion euros, people familiar with the matter said, adding that buyout group Avista remains the last bidder.
Suitors such as India's Lupin (LUPN.NS) and investor BC Partners have dropped out, sources said, cautioning that Bayer may pull out if its price expectations are not met.
Lack of patent protection for the unit's long-established products as well as the geographical spread of its sites are seen as weighing on the attractiveness of the asset.
Bayer declined to comment on the dermatology business, while Avista was not immediately available for comment.
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Reporting by Arno Schuetze, Pamela Barbaglia, Sophie Sassard and Ludwig Burger; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Adrian Croft