Creditors at the conglomerate formerly run by German billionaire Adolf Merckle, who committed suicide earlier this month, will start the process of selling off generic drugmaker Ratiopharm and possibly the wholesaler Phoenix next month.

That is the claim of a report on Reuters which cites three people familiar with the situation. The news agency states that two trustees, one for each of the aforementioned firms, will be appointed to oversee the sales and to select banks for managing the transactions. "This will ensure the highest possible transparency for prospective buyers," one of the sources said.

Before he took his own life by jumping in front of a train, Mr Merckle and his family’s VEM investment group had been negotiating with a consortium of lenders in a bid to save the 120-firm business empire. The problems for the group principally stem from a bad bet last year on Volkswagen shares which reportedly cost the financier some 400 million euros, plus debts from its HeidelbergCement operation.

A bridging loan was recently secured with about 30 banks, but one of the conditions was that Ratiopharm would be sold. The world's fourth-largest generic drugsmaker has annual sales of around 1.8 billion euros.