Italy’s Sigma-Tau Rare Diseases Unit Said to Attract Interest

Sigma-Tau Group, a closely held Italian pharmaceutical company, is attracting interest from potential bidders for its rare-diseases business, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The unit, which may be valued at about $1 billion, could draw bids from companies including Jazz Pharmaceuticals Plc and Shire Plc, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the process is private. No formal negotiations are under way and Sigma-Tau, which is based in Rome and controlled by the Cavazza family, may choose not to sell the business, one of the people said.

Spokeswomen for Sigma-Tau and Shire declined to comment. Representatives for Jazz didn’t respond to e-mails and phone calls requesting comment.

A sale of Sigma-Tau’s rare-diseases business would follow the company’s agreement with Alfa Wassermann SpA to combine pharmaceutical activities, not including Sigma-Tau’s rare-diseases business, earlier this month. Last year, Jazz acquired Sigma-Tau’s rights to defibrotide in the Americas for as much as $250 million. It’s used to treat severe hepatic veno-occlusive disease, a condition in which veins in the liver become obstructed.

Sigma-Tau, which was founded in 1957, had sales of 697 million euros ($757 million) in 2013, of which the rare-diseases unit contributed 165 million euros, according to its website. The unit focuses on treatments for blood diseases and cancers, and employs 220 people. Sigma-Tau reorganized following the death of founder Claudio Cavazza in 2011, naming Andrea Montevecchi as chief executive officer.

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