Nycomed has emerged as favourite to acquire Solvay’s pharmaceutical business and a deal could be concluded.

The Belgian firm has been reluctant to make any comments since it acknowledged in April that a review of its strategic options was taking place. At the time Solvay complained that “speculation in the media created distraction during this process”, but that speculation is continuing and Switzerland-based, privately-held Nycomed is mentioned in most dispatches.

At the beginning of the week, the Financial Times claimed that two companies were left in negotiations and named Nycomed and Abbott Laboratories, Solvay’s partner on the cholesterol drug TriCor (fenofibrate). However Abbott swiftly denied the report, saying that no approach was planned.

Reuters later cited “a person familiar with the matter” as saying that Nycomed and a Japanese drugmaker were in pole position. Bidders have begun due diligence and have held initial meetings with management, the news agency claimed,

Then Bloomberg, quoting two people familiar with the situation, also mentioned Nycomed as the most likely bidder. It also cited a Brussels-based analyst, Jan Van Den Bossche, as saying that “there is a central nervous system and gastro overlap, so that could be interesting”.

Nycomed was itself reportedly considering a sale earlier this year which could have brought in as much as 10 billion euros but in May said that it prefers the option of an initial public offering, depending on market conditions. Bloomberg’s sources claimed that Zurich-headquartered firm is prepared to take on additional debt to acquire Solvay’s drugs unit.