FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF Germany's Evonik Industries AG (EVKn.DE) has dropped out of talks to buy medical skin patch maker LTS Lohmann, two people familiar with the deal said on Wednesday, sending the sellers back to square one in their search for a buyer.
After showing initial interest in LTS Lohmann, Evonik, a speciality chemicals group with a strategic aim of expanding in the health sector, had bowed out of the auction a few months ago, only to be asked back to the negotiating table before the Christmas holidays.
Evonik has now decided not to pursue its exclusive talks with LTS Lohmann's owners - Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG NOVN.VX, German billionaire Dietmar Hopp and German investment company BWK - as the parties' views on valuation proved to be too far apart, the people said.
Evonik, Novartis and BWK declined to comment. Hopp's investment company was not immediately available for comment.
The sellers will now try to rekindle the interest of private equity groups Wendel SA (MWDP.PA) of France and Sweden's Nordic Capital, which had offered to buy LTS Lohmann for about 1.2 billion euros ($1.7 billion) but were kicked out of the race as LTS's owners hoped for a higher offer from Evonik.
A person familiar with one of those possible bidders noted LTS Lohmann's outlook had weakened since it was initially involved in bid talks.
"We will take our time to look into the matter again, but any new bid will have to account for the fact that a new business plan with lower growth prospects has been presented in the meanwhile," the person said, without giving any further details.
At least one of LTS Lohmann's owners had held out for a valuation of 1.4 billion euros, or 15 times the company's expected earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of about 90 million, sources familiar with the deal previously said.
By comparison, European healthcare equipment and services companies as a whole trade at about 11 times estimated EBITDA, while for pharmaceutical companies the multiple is 11.2, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Wendel and Nordic declined comment.
LTS Lohmann, which competes with unlisted AMW GmbH, Beiersdorf's (BEIG.DE) Tesa Labtec unit, Acino ACIN.S, and U.S. conglomerate 3M (MMM.N), makes about 286 million euros in annual sales from nicotine and other medical patches to treat conditions including Parkinson's disease and Restless Legs Syndrome.
A key question for any future owner will be whether LTS Lohmann can succeed in preventing generic drugmakers from launching cheap copies of its Exelon patch for mild to moderate dementia. Novartis has sued Actavis ACT.N for trying to bring a version to market.
($1 = 0.7316 euros)
(Addtional reporting by Frank Siebelt and Ludwig Burger; Editing by Maria Sheahan and David Holmes)