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TROUBLED drugmaker Wockhardt is learnt to have put one of its key marketing divisions on the block to ease a Rs 3,400-crore debt burden, a week after the group’s promoters sold 10 hospitals. Multiple sources in the industry and in investment banking said that two multinational firms were in the race to acquire Merind, for which Wockhardt has put a price tag of Rs 800 crore.

However, a Wockhardt spokesman denied the development and said Merind was part of the company’s core business and was not for sale.

The unit, which is the company’s second-largest marketing division, employs over 300 people and markets 26 brands, including top sellers like Decdan, Tryptomer and Libotryb. These three brands have annual sales of Rs 21.5 crore, Rs 19.5 crore and Rs 13 crore, respectively.

While Wockhardt, headed by Habil Khorakiwala, does not reveal the size of the Merind business separately in its annual accounts since it is a business division, an industry executive who did not want to be named said the top line and EBIDTA (or core earnings) of Merind were Rs 300-350 crore and Rs 60-70 crore, respectively.

Wockhardt has been undergoing a corporate debt restructuring process, which necessitates the promoters, the Khorakiwala family, to infuse Rs 70 crore into the business. The company recently sold its German subsidiary Esparma for Rs 120 crore, its animal healthcare business for Rs 170 crore, the nutritional division for $130 million ( approximately Rs 635 crore) to raise funds. The Khorakiwalas sold 10 Wockhardt hospitals to Fortis for Rs 909 crore a few days back.

Merind was originally called Merck Sharp & Dhome (India), but was renamed when the Tatas bought a 50% stake in the company in 1994. The Tatas in turn sold it to Wockhardt in 1998 for nearly Rs 95 crore.

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