The competition to acquire Croatian drugmaker Pliva appears to be stepping up, with the firm announcing this morning that it expects a cash offer for the business amid proposals from ‘a number of interested parties’.

Icelandic company Actavis first made an approach for Pliva in March, hiking its offer to 630 kuna per share the following month after its initial overtures met with a frosty reception. That deal would value Pliva at around $2 billion, but was dismissed by Pliva’s management as not representing fair value for the company. Shares in the Croatian company were trading at

Since then, US generics specialist Barr has also been rumoured to have come forward with an offer of around $2.1 billion for the Croatian firm. Actavis has not made any public statement about raising its offer, but has said it remains in the bidding.

Pliva said that its board is meeting today “to consider the final proposals and decide which interested party is its preferred bidder.” Shares in the company were trading up 2% to 630 kuna in mid-morning trading today.

Pliva recently completed the process of transforming its business to one specialising only on generics via the sale of all its proprietary activities, after losing patent protection for azithromycin, an antibiotic licensed to Pfizer that was a major earner for the company.

Interest in Pliva is thought to stem from its strong position in the fast-growing eastern European markets, particularly the new members of the European Union, as well as a fear among generics companies that they are at risk of left behind by the big players.

Actavis has followed a policy of growth through acquisition in recent years, and snapping up Pliva would catapult it into third place in the generics market, ahead of Teva and Sandoz. Both of the leaders have also been steadily buying up companies, broadening their product portfolios and boosting their international presence in order to make them more competitive.

Meanwhile, for Barr the deal would represent its first foray into Europe and cement an existing collaboration with Pliva for the development of generic versions of biologic drugs, notably granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) for treating low white blood cell counts caused by cancer chemotherapy.