July 22 (Bloomberg) -- Franz Haniel & Cie GmbH, a family-owned holding company in Germany, is exploring options including a sale of its entire stake in German pharmaceutical retailer Celesio AG, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Haniel has hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. to advise on the sale of a full or partial stake or a partnership with another company, said the people, who asked not to be identified because talks are private. The process remains at an early stage and Haniel could decide against a sale of its 50 percent stake in the Stuttgart-based company, they said.
Celesio shares surged 9.3 percent to 17.70 euros at the close in Frankfurt, the biggest gain in a month. The stock has climbed 36 percent so far this year, giving the company a market value of 3 billion euros ($4 billion), amid speculation the company could be sold. Celesio Chief Executive Officer Markus Pinger was fired this month after he hired Citigroup Inc. to advise on a potential deal, people familiar with the situation said at the time.
Since Walgreen Co., the largest U.S. drugstore chain, agreed in 2012 to buy a 45 percent stake of U.K. pharmacy owner Alliance Boots, drug wholesalers have been examining their positions in Europe and ways to reduce costs. A possible Celesio sale comes as medical expenses rise and governments cut spending in Europe.
Celesio has attracted interest from at least three companies, one of the people said. McKesson Corp., the largest U.S. drug distributor, and U.S. competitor Cardinal Health Inc. are among potential buyers, one of the people said. Celesio and CVS Caremark Corp. have held talks on a possible collaboration, including purchasing pacts, rather than an acquisition, the person said.
A Haniel spokesman in Duisburg, Germany, said it’s company policy not to comment on market speculation. Representatives of Celesio, JPMorgan and CVS Caremark declined to comment. McKesson and Cardinal Health couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.