Pfizer, Teva set to tussle for Ratiopharm: report

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The race for German generic-drug maker Ratiopharm has practically narrowed to Israel's Teva TEVA.TA and U.S. drug major Pfizer PFE.N, German business daily Handelsblatt reported on Monday.

EQT also remains a bidder but the Swedish buy-out firm’s chances are seen as slim because it stands to gain fewer synergies from the deal and has less financial fire power than its rivals from the healthcare industry, the newspaper cited financial sources as saying.

The three suitors are to file binding offers for Ratiopharm -- among the world’s top five generics suppliers -- by early February, Handelsblatt reported.

The winning bid could be in the 2.8-3 billion euro range, the paper quoted unnamed industry experts as saying.

German industrial heir Ludwig Merckle is selling Ratiopharm as part of concessions made to creditor banks by his late father Adolf Merckle, who committed suicide a year ago after losing control over his business empire to lenders.

The family's debt burden also prompted Ludwig Merckle to sell his majority stake in Germany's HeidelbergCement HEIG.DE on the stock market and to put Swiss generics maker Mepha on the auction block.

Sources told Reuters in December that a pharmaceutical company looked set to buy Ratiopharm after a raft of private equity bidders dropped out of the race.

Strategic investors who had previously also expressed interest in Ratiopharm included U.S. companies Mylan MYL.O and Watson WPI.N as well as a Chinese drugmaker, people familiar with the matter have said.

Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Martin Golan