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Wendel Said Leading Bidder for German Drug-Patch Maker

Wendel SA, France’s largest publicly traded investment firm, is in the lead to buy nicotine-patch maker LTS Lohmann Therapie-Systeme AG after outbidding Nordic Capital, three people with knowledge of the matter said.

Wendel is in final negotiations about the price with LTS Lohmann’s owners, who are seeking about 1.3 billion euros ($1.8 billion), said two of the people, all of whom asked not to be identified because talks are private. A decision is likely this month and talks may still fall apart because the Paris-based company’s offer was slightly below that target, they said.

Nordic Capital is still interested in Andernach, Germany-based LTS Lohmann, though it doesn’t plan to raise its offer, said two of the people. The firm may change its mind and increase the bid at the last moment, one of the people said.

LTS Lohmann employs more than 1,100 people and describes itself as the global leader in the development and manufacturing of transdermal systems and oral thin films. The company manufactures Novartis AG’s Exelon patch, which is used in treating symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. LTS Lohmann’s sales totaled 286 million euros last year, according to the company’s website.

Spokeswomen for Nordic Capital in London and Wendel in Paris declined to comment on the bidding process, as did spokesmen for LTS Lohmann and Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis, which owns 43 percent of the company.

German billionaire Dietmar Hopp and investment company BWK also own stakes. A spokesman for Hopp declined to comment. A spokesman for BWK didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

The owners may struggle to get the price they want because LTS Lohmann’s business has slowed and management hasn’t given a clear forecast for future earnings, said one of the people.

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