German Merck considering generics sale

German chemicals company Merck KGaA is considering shedding its generics business, which could fetch 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion). Merck has hired Bear Stearns to vet potential bidders. The generics business had sales of 1.8 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in 2005. Merck is buying Swiss biotech Serono for $13.3 billion, after failing to buy the rival Schering last year, and may be under pressure to cut debt. Among those expected to express interest in the unit are Teva and Novartis, as are private equity firms including Blackstone and KKR. Iceland’s Actavis and KKR and Blackstone lost a bidding battle against Barr Pharmaceuticals, which bought Croatian drugmaker Pliva for $2.5 billion last year. Also last year, Novartis bought generics company Hexal for $8 billion.