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FILE PHOTO: A Pfizer Inc. logo sits on a sign outside the company's research center in Cambridge, U.K., on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013.

(bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) -- GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc are the only companies to have submitted non-binding bids for Pfizer Inc.’s consumer business after rival candidates walked away, according to people familiar with the matter.

Pfizer plans to open a data room for Glaxo and Reckitt to start due diligence on the assets before submitting final offers in the next few weeks, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. French drugmaker Sanofi, Switzerland’s Nestle SA and health care giant Johnson & Johnson were among companies to consider and then decide against bidding for the business, the people said.

The deadline for non-binding offers for the business, which makes well-known brands including the pain reliever Advil, ChapStick lip balm and the dietary supplement Centrum, was Feb. 1, the people said. The unit could fetch $15 billion to $20 billion, people familiar with the matter have said. Potential buyers have expressed concerns about stagnant sales at the division as well as the challenge from online competitors such as Amazon.com Inc, the people said.

Representatives for Glaxo and Reckitt declined to comment. A Sanofi spokesman also said he had no comment. A spokeswoman for Nestle wasn’t immediately available to comment. A spokesman for J&J confirmed that the company had withdrawn from the bidding process and declined to comment further.

A spokeswoman for Pfizer said the company is continuing to evaluate a range of options for its consumer healthcare business, including a full or partial separation from Pfizer through a spin-off, sale or other transaction, and it may still opt to keep the business. The company expects to reach a decision in 2018, she said.

Pfizer first announced a review of the business in October. A sale would help the U.S. drug giant raise billions of dollars in cash for acquisitions and streamline operations to focus on other growth areas.

Sales at the consumer-products business were little changed in the fourth quarter from a year earlier at $950 million. Full-year sales at the unit advanced by 2 percent to $3.47 billion.

Glaxo Chief Executive Officer Emma Walmsley said at a conference in San Francisco last month that the company’s top priority is the pharmaceutical business and that it doesn’t need the Pfizer assets though the unit would be complementary.

To contact the reporters on this story: Manuel Baigorri in London at mbaigorri@bloomberg.net, James Paton in London at jpaton4@bloomberg.net, Jared S. Hopkins in New York at jhopkins38@bloomberg.net, Ruth David in London at rdavid9@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Dinesh Nair at dnair5@bloomberg.net, Chris Vellacott, Steve Geimann

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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