By Greg Roumeliotis
(Reuters) - Swiss pharmaceutical manufacturer Lonza Group AG on Monday confirmed it is in advanced talks with private equity firm KKR & Co LP to acquire Capsugel, a U.S. maker of capsule products and other drug delivery systems.
Sources familiar with the talks told Reuters that a potential transaction would be valued at more than $5 billion.
Capsugel "would fit perfectly with Lonza's ... strategy and strengthen its position as leading supplier to a number of important healthcare markets," Lonza said in a statement. "A successful acquisition would be value adding and be within Lonza's stated acquisition criteria."
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The deal, which Lonza said still may not come to fruition, comes as the Swiss drug ingredient maker seeks to boost its life sciences capabilities and produce a wider range of molecules used in active pharmaceutical ingredients and drug delivery. It held unsuccessful talks to acquire U.S. drug delivery technology company Catalent Inc earlier this year.
Discussions between Lonza and KKR could lead to a deal as early this week, people familiar with the talks said on Sunday.
The sources asked not to be identified because the negotiations are confidential. Capsugel and KKR did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Based in Morristown, New Jersey, Capsugel manufacturers empty two-piece hard capsules as well as finished dosage forms for drug delivery. It serves more than 4,000 corporate customers in over 100 countries.
Reuters reported in March that KKR was preparing to run a sale process for Capsugel this year, and also explore the possibility of an initial public offering of the company as an alternative to an outright sale.
KKR acquired Capsugel from Pfizer Inc for $2.4 billion in 2011.
Lonza has been expanding its presence in the United States in recent years, buying up small biopharmaceutical companies and in 2011 acquiring chemical maker Arch Chemicals for $1.4 billion. Lonza has a market capitalization of 9.4 billion Swiss francs ($9.25 billion).
(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York and John Miller in Zurich; Editing by Bernard Orr/Alan Crosby/Louise Heavens)