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Healthcare

FACTBOX-German billionaire Merckle's business conglomerate

FRANKFURT, Nov 19 (Reuters) - German billionaire Adolf Merckle incurred massive losses from wrong-way bets on skyrocketing Volkswagen VOWG.DE shares, sparking speculation that he may have to divest some assets to secure cash.

Financial sources told Reuters that Merckle was in talks with several dozen lenders over roughly 2 billion euros ($2.53 billion) in bridging loans.

Forbes recently ranked Merckle Germany’s fifth-richest man with a fortune worth an estimated $9.2 billion.

He has assembled a business conglomerate with about 100,000 employees and 30 billion euros in annual sales, the following are his main investments:

** Phoenix Pharmahandel, the largest drugs wholesaler in Germany and the industry's No. 2 in Europe after Celesio CLSGn.DE, has about 22,000 staff and annual sales of 21.6 billion euros.

** HeidelbergCement HEIG.DE is Germany's largest cement maker with 68,000 employees and about 11 billion euros in annual revenue. Merckle's investment companies VEM Vermoegensverwaltung and Spohn Cement hold almost 79 percent in the company and Schwenk Beteiligungen GmbH & Co. KG, a company linked to his wife Ruth, holds a further 6.9 percent.

** Ratiopharm is the world’s fourth-largest generic-drug maker and the first to produce copies of off-patent drugs in Germany. The company, fully owned by the Merckle family, posted sales of 1.8 billion euros last year and has about 5,400 employees.

** VEM Group, bought by Merckle in 1997, includes three makers of electric engines as well as Keulahuette, one of Germany’s oldest foundries, with combined annual sales of about 280 million euros and 1,520 staff.

** Kaessbohrer KAEG.DE, a maker of grooming vehicles for ski slopes, is 89 percent controlled by the Merckle family. The company posted 183.4 million in sales in the fiscal year 2006/07 and has 455 employees.

** Merckle also holds a stake in Zollern GmbH & Co., which makes drive trains, foundry equipment and engineering components. The company posted about 530 million euros in sales in the fiscal year 2007/08 and has about 3,000 staff.

** Some of Merckle’s numerous holding companies bear names such as Koetitz Leather and Oilcloth Factories or Pommeranian Provincial Sugar Refinery, reminiscent of traditional German manufacturing houses rather than investment vehicles.

Reporting by Ludwig Burger and Patricia Gugau; editing by Simon Jessop

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