(Corrects errorneous word in fourth paragraph)
By Sophie Sassard and Soyoung Kim
LONDON/NEW YORK May 1 German drugmaker Bayer AG
is nearing an agreement to buy Merck & Co Inc's
consumer healthcare unit, people familiar with the
matter said, in a deal that could value the business at around
Reckitt Benckiser Group, one of the final contenders
in the auction, said on Wednesday it was no longer in active
talks to buy the Merck business, leaving Bayer in the pole
position to win the asset, which is best known for Coppertone
sunscreen and Claritin allergy medicine.
Bayer and Merck are hammering out final terms of an
agreement and could announce the transaction in the next several
days, the people said, asking not to be named because the matter
is not public. Representatives for Bayer and Merck declined to
Reuters first reported last week that Bayer and Reckitt had
emerged as frontrunners in the auction with each offering
roughly $13.5 billion, a price that could come close to $14
billion when the deal is finalized.
Bloomberg News reported on Thursday that Bayer entered
exclusive talks with Merck.
Bayer has also edged out other rival bidders in the auction,
including Procter & Gamble Co, Boehringer Ingelheim,
Novartis AG and Sanofi SA, people familiar
with the matter said.
(Reporting by Sophie Sassard in London and Soyoung Kim in New
York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)