Actavis, with the backing of private equity firm EQT, has emerged as a rival to Teva Pharmaceutical Industries in the battle to acquire Germany’s Ratiopharm, claims a report which says Pfizer has slipped out of the running.

An article from Reuters, citing “several people familiar with the procedure”, says that Pfizer is unlikely to take part in the final round of bids due at the end of this week, having long been regarded as the major rival to Teva in getting hold of the world’s fourth-largest generics firm. However the competition could now come from Iceland's Actavis and EQT, the private equity arm of Sweden's Wallenberg family, who have apparently enhanced their chances after pledging to protect jobs at Ratiopharm.

EQT has been mentioned as a potential buyer since it joined forces at the end of 2009 with Claudio Albrecht, a former chairman of Ratiopharm. That Teva’s hat is in the ring comes as no surprise given its acquisitive nature, financial clout and previously-stated desire to more than double revenues by 2015.

The news agency says sources have claimed that one bidder will be selected for exclusive talks with the conglomerate formerly run by German billionaire Adolf Merckle. It is thought that the sale could bring in 3 billion euros.

Ratiopharm is being sold off as a result of concessions made during a deal which secured a brldging loan from banks a year ago following the suicide of Mr Merckle. At the beginning of the week, the Merckle family agreed to buy Swiss generics drugmaker Mepha to the USA’s Cephalon for 622.5 million Swiss francs, or about $590 million.