Denmark's Nycomed is interested in acquiring the drug unit of German chemical and pharmaceutical group Altana, according to a report from Financial Times Deutschland, which also suggests there is interest from Belgian company Solvay and two private equity firms.

Altana is in the midst of a restructuring exercise aimed at separating its Altana Chemie and Altana Pharma units, with a view to securing partnership for the drugmaking arm, and earlier this year hired Goldman Sachs to help in this effort. It has set aside a billion euro fund to invest in pharma in order to reduce its reliance on gastrointestinal drug Pantozol/Protonix (pantoprazole), which is due to start losing patent protection in 2009.

Meanwhile, Nycomed has been on the acquisition trail of late, announcing that it was buying Romanian drugmaker Ruby De Tacos last month in order to strengthen its European presence, particularly in the small but fast growing Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region. The terms of this deal were not disclosed, although Ruby De Tacos had sales of around 2 million euros last year.

Neither Nycomed or Altana would comment on the FT report. Analysts questioned the benefits of a link-up, as Altana currently has a sparse pipeline and Nycomed’s strategy has been to in-license drugs from other companies to market in Europe.