India's Torrent Pharma in talks with CVC, Bain Capital for Cipla bid- sources

By Aditya Kalra and M. Sriram

DELHI/MUMBAI (Reuters) - India's Torrent Pharmaceuticals is in talks with private equity funds CVC Capital Partners and Bain Capital to raise up to $1.5 billion to bid for India's Cipla, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

Torrent and Blackstone are among those interested to acquire a stake in Cipla, India's third-biggest drugmaker by sales, in what could be the largest pharma deal in India ever.

Cipla's founding family is keen to sell their 33.4% holding entirely, sources say, and any bid will also trigger an open offer for another 26% stake, as per Indian regulations. That translates to a $6.75 - $7 billion deal, Bernstein estimated in an Aug. 30 report.

Torrent is likely to reach a decision to finalize its consortium financing partner in the next few days, said the first source.

Bain and Blackstone declined to comment while Cipla, Torrent and CVC did not respond to comments. The Economic Times first reported CVC's talks with Torrent on Monday.

Cipla also exports medicines to North America and South Africa, and sells generic drugs to treat illnesses like cold, fever and headaches. It competes with global majors Pfizer and Abbott, among others, in the world's most populous nation whose pharmaceutical market is expected to reach $130 billion by 2030, from $50 billion currently.

Torrent, whose market cap is 54% lower than Cipla's $11.9 billion, is present in more than 40 countries and sells medicines related to diabetes, pain management, gynaecology, oncology and anti-infective segments as per its website.

Torrent and Blackstone both have submitted non-binding bids for Cipla, sources say.

Foreign banks, including Morgan Stanley and Barclays are also in talks with Torrent to arrange potential debt financing for the deal, the second and third source said.

Barclays declined to comment while Morgan Stanley did not immediately respond.

The second source said Cipla is likely to be more keen on getting a strategic partner on board, like Torrent, instead of a pure financial investor, though a final decision was not likely soon.

A Bernstein report in August flagged possible antitrust scrutiny and requirement to divest brands when combined market shares are high. It added that product overlap between Cipla and Torrent is "manageable" as there were only four overlaps at the molecule level where the "combined sales share would cross the 90% mark."

(Reporting by M. Sriram and Aditya Kalra, additional reporting by Kane Wu; Editing by Bernadette Baum)