Warburg Pincus LLC hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS:US) to explore the sale of its Bausch & Lomb Inc. eye-care company, said two people with knowledge of the matter.
Warburg may seek at least $10 billion for the business, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the process is confidential. The asset may only fetch as much as $8 billion, said another person familiar with the deliberations.
Bausch & Lomb makes products from contact lenses and solutions to equipment used in eye surgery. Warburg Pincus bought the Rochester, New York-based company for $3.7 billion in September 2007 after the eye-products maker was marred by accounting errors, lawsuits and the recall of one of its contact lens solutions.
Goldman this month contacted health-care companies such as Sanofi (SAN), GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) and Merck & Co., one person said. Other companies, such as Abbott (ABT:US) Laboratories, also will be contacted, according to that person.
Warburg Pincus had talked to financial advisers about taking Bausch & Lomb public, the person said. The New York-based private-equity firm chose Goldman Sachs to run a limited sales process, and if a buyer can’t be found Warburg Pincus may pursue an IPO, according to the person.
Before Bausch & Lomb was taken private, Advanced Medical Optics Inc., now owned by Abbott Park, Illinois-based Abbott, tried to buy the company in July 2007 with a $4.3 billion bid.
Bausch & Lomb’s chairman Fred Hassan, who is also a managing director at Warburg Pincus, has a history as a dealmaker in the health-care industry. He engineered the $37 billion takeover in March 2000 of Monsanto Co. by Pharmacia & Upjohn, he sold Pharmacia to New York-based Pfizer Inc. for $58 billion in 2003, and led Schering-Plough Corp. when it was sold to Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck for $41 billion in 2009.
Created more than 40 years ago, Warburg Pincus has over $30 billion in assets under management, according to the firm’s website. Past investments include Dutch cable operator Ziggo BV and food-services company Aramark, the site shows.
“Bausch & Lomb is regularly contacted by companies with strategic interest in our company, and we continue to aspire to a return to the public markets in the future,” said Adam Grossberg, a spokesman for the eye-care company. “However, our focus remains on building the best global eye-health company, and therefore won’t comment further.”
Officials at Goldman Sachs, Warburg Pincus, Merck, Paris- based Sanofi and London-based Glaxo declined to comment. An Abbott representative didn’t return calls seeking comment about the possible sale.
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