Elder Pharma weighs sale of nutrition business: sources

MUMBAI Mon May 7, 2012 11:19am IST

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MUMBAI (Reuters) - Drugmaker Elder Pharmaceuticals is exploring options to sell its nutrition products business, two sources with direct knowledge of the development said.

One of the sources said Elder is looking for a valuation of roughly $60 million to $75 million for the business, which includes about 20 brands, and that discussions are at a very early stage.

Elder Pharma Joint Managing Director Alok Saxena denied that the company was looking to sell the business.

"We are not selling anything, nor are we discussing this with anybody," Saxena said in an emailed reply to a query from Reuters.

The nutrition supplements market in India, home to more than 1.3 billion people, is relatively undeveloped and valued at about $1 billion, according to the lobby group Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

A rapidly expanding middle-class, increasing incidence of diabetes and longer life spans are driving demand for nutrition products in India, an opportunity that has caught the attention of multinationals.

Last year, French drugmaker Sanofi's (SASY.PA) India unit Aventis Pharma AVPH.NS acquired the nutrition business of Universal Medicare for about 5 billion rupees while Danone (DANO.PA) agreed to buy the baby nutrition business of India's Wockhardt (WCKH.NS) for $355 million.

U.S. drugmaker Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N) last week agreed to set up a research and development centre with India's Biocon (BION.NS) to develop affordable nutrition products for the domestic market.

"The talks are only at consideration stage and this business is a small division for Elder," a second source said.

Both sources declined to be identified because the matter is private.

Elder Pharmaceuticals sells popular nutritional products such as multi-vitamin tablets Eldervit, kidney dietary supplement drug Nephrocaps and Elmecob, a tablet used to support anemia treatment.

(Editing by Ranjit Gangadharan)

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