LEVERKUSEN, Germany—Bayer A.G.'s possible sale of its $10 billion plastics unit would accelerate a retreat from chemicals that the maker of aspirin initiated a decade ago, leaving it focused on the more lucrative life-science industry.
The German company is reviewing options for Bayer Material Science after chemicals company Evonik Industries A.G. showed potential interest some months ago, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because talks are private. No decision has been made, and Evonik's considerations failed to gain traction, they said.
Disposing of the plastics assets would further whittle down one of Europe's last remaining major pharmaceutical and chemicals conglomerates, and a sale would coincide with a push by Bayer for purchases to broaden its drug and life-science offering, the people said. The business may fetch more than $10.8 billion including net debt, according to Fabian Wenner, an analyst with Kepler Cheuvreux in Zurich.
Bayer exited large parts of its specialty chemicals portfolio a decade ago by spinning off its Lanxess A.G. subsidiary. Among the few companies that still have both chemicals and pharmaceuticals assets is Merck KGaA, also based in Germany.
The healthcare industry is seeing a flurry of deals, and Bayer's mergers and acquisitions team is largely focused on pursuing the company's chosen targets in that area. Bayer is bidding for Merck & Co.'s over-the-counter medicines business, according to people familiar with the matter. Merck may decide on the winner for the business as early as this week, said the people, who asked not to be named because talks are private.
Bayer is competing against bidders including Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc. and Procter & Gamble Co., which has an OTC venture with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the people said. Representatives for Bayer, Reckitt, P&G and Merck declined to comment.
Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers wouldn't say during the firm's quarterly earnings analyst call today whether he wants to buy the Merck unit or sell the plastics division.