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Australia's Sigma Says Discussing Symbion Bid

Australian drugs company Sigma Pharmaceuticals said on Wednesday it was in final talks with a potential partner on a counter bid for Symbion Health before a deadline of June 19.

Sigma Chief Executive Elmo de Alwis told Reuters that the company had narrowed down a list of potential partners to an Australian private equity firm, which he declined to name. The two were discussing a cash bid for Symbion in a structure that would appease regulatory concerns.

"The structure would be that we would buy what we needed and they would buy what they needed. We couldn't buy the (drugs) wholesaling part for example because there would be (competition) issues," said de Alwis.

Symbion has accepted a A$2.8 billion (US$2.4 billion) takeover bid led by Australian hospital operator Healthscope and has given rival bidders until June 19 to make an offer.

Sigma wants Symbion's consumer and pharmacy divisions, which account for about one third of Symbion's earnings. Healthscope's private equity bid partners, Ironbridge Capital and Archer Capital, have valued the divisions at A$1.043 billion.

"The valuation details haven't been finalized but Symbion has specified that for them to consider the offer, (the bid for the consumer and pharmacy divisions) has to be about A$1.075 billion," de Alwis said.

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