Americans Line Up For NHS Blood Plasma Firm
A pack of American biopharmaceutical companies and financial investors has entered the race to acquire the principal supplier of blood plasma to the National Health Service (NHS).
I understand that Baxter International, a specialist in the treatment of blood-related disorders, as well as kidney disease and trauma, was among the parties which last week submitted first-round offers for Plasma Resources UK (PRUK).
Other bidders include Bain Capital, the US-based private equity firm, according to insiders.
It is unclear precisely how much PRUK is worth although analysts have suggested that £200m is a realistic price-tag for the organisation, which employs hundreds of people in the UK and a further 1,000 in the US through a subsidiary there.
Simon Burns, the health minister, said last summer that a sale was necessary to ensure PRUK "can successfully compete in the global market".
"An independent review found that the best interests of the company, the taxpayer and patients would be met by investment from private sector," he said.
Mr Burns insisted that patients "will not be affected by any changes", although the sale of such a sensitive asset by the Government is likely to attract close scrutiny. PRUK supplies about one-third of the blood plasma used by the NHS.
PRUK, which also supplies blood plasma to a number of international health bodies, has been restructured several times in recent years.
It owns a US-based plasma supply company called DCI Inc and operates a production facility in the UK called Bio Products Laboratory Limited.
Sky News revealed last July the Government's plan to attract private investment into PRUK.
Mr Burns said last year: "Any future partner of investor would be chosen through a fair and open process."
He added: "We will be ensuring that any option continues to safeguard the interests of patients, that supplies of current products are secure and that resources are available to develop new products, such that NHS patients continue to receive the best possible care."
The auction process is being overseen by Lazard, the advisory firm which is also involved in helping the Government prepare the privatisation of Royal Mail.