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DuPont unit's sale near
June 4, 2001: 1:50 p.m. ET

Bristol Myers, Novartis said to be leading bidders for DuPont drug business
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Bristol-Myers Squibb and Novartis AG are leading the bidding to buy DuPont Co.'s drugs unit for between $6 billion and $8 billion, according to a published report Monday.

The companies are vying to seal the deal as early as the middle of this week, and DuPont (DD: up $0.10 to $46.17, Research, Estimates) is negotiating with interested parties from both sides of the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the situation.

Among a handful of other pharmaceutical firms also in the running to acquire DuPont's drug business are the Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca PLC, Germany's Bayer AG, Switzerland's Roche Holding Ltd., France's Aventis SA, and Britain's GlaxoSmithKline PLC, although it's not clear if that concern still is in the running, the paper said.

The board of DuPont (DD: Research, Estimates), the largest U.S. chemicals company, is expected to announce the winning bidder as early as this week, the report said.

A regularly scheduled meeting of DuPont's board will be held this week, DuPont spokesman Cliff Webb told, but he declined to comment if the board would be considering the sale.

In December, DuPont announced plans to separate its pharmaceutical business. At that time, the company was evaluating if a sale, spinoff, initial public offering or other option would be the best plan of action for the unit.

"All options remain open including a potential IPO and sale of unit," said Webb, who called press reports "rumor and speculation."

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DuPont's pharmaceuticals arm owns the fast-growing HIV drug Sustiva and a number of older drugs such as Warfarin, used to dissolve blood clots.

In April, DuPont announced it was cutting 4,000 jobs in an effort to adjust to the economic slowdown.

Bristol-Myers (BMY: Research, Estimates) is a strong frontrunner to buy the drug business after its recent $5 billion sale of the Clairol hair-care business to Procter & Gamble Co. (PG: Research, Estimates), a move widely speculated to have been made to raise cash for the DuPont acquisition, the Journal said.

Bristol-Myers declined to comment on the reports while Novartis could not be reached for comment. graphic


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