(Bloomberg) -- Sanofi SA has called for initial bids for its $20 billion consumer health division, as the French pharmaceutical giant simultaneously moves forward with preparations for a possible listing of the business, according to people familiar with the matter. 

The Paris-based drugmaker has asked potential suitors to make first-round bids by mid-July, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. Buyout firm Advent International and France’s PAI Partners are seen as the most keen on the business, which sells over-the-counter products including Phytoxil cough syrups and Icy Hot pain relief gels, the people said. 

Blackstone Inc., Clayton Dubilier & Rice, CVC Capital Partners Plc and TPG Inc. are also among those weighing potential bids, the people said. EQT AB, who was previously studying the business, is no longer actively pursuing a deal, the people said. 

PAI is hoping its status as the only French bidder should place it in a pole position to buy the business at a time when there’s increased scrutiny on foreign takeovers in the country, some of the people said. However, the private equity firm may need to find partners for the deal given the size of the potential transaction, the people said.

Sanofi is likely to retain a significant minority stake in the business after any sale, which would reduce the amount of capital that bidders need to commit, the people said.

Shares in Sanofi rose as much as 2% and touched the highest level in more than six weeks in early Wednesday trading in Paris.

Bank of America Corp., BNP Paribas SA, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley are advising Sanofi on the separation and would act as global coordinators on the potential listing, according to the people. Sanofi has picked Barclays Plc, Deutsche Bank AG and Jefferies Financial Group Inc. to serve as bookrunners if a listing goes ahead, the people said. Sanofi announced its plans to review all options to split the consumer health unit in October 2023.

Deliberations are ongoing and there’s no certainty they will lead to a deal, the people said. A spokesperson for Sanofi said the preparation for a potential separation of the business is progressing and the company is open to all options, declining to comment further. 

Representatives for the buyout firms declined to comment. Spokespeople for Deutsche Bank and Barclays didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment, while the other banks declined to comment. 

Sanofi has said that separating the business will allow it to generate better long-term value from cutting-edge therapies, particularly in immunology or in vaccines. The French drugmaker would also be joining the likes of big pharma peers like GSK Plc and Johnson & Johnson, which have split off their consumer divisions in recent years to free up resources for developing next-generation therapies for cancer, rare diseases and other ailments.

A potential sale of the business could also rank among one of the largest deals in Europe this year and comes at a time when health-care transactions show signs of a revival after a slow start to the year. The deal is progressing ahead of a snap parliamentary election in France where President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance may lose to its far-right and leftwing rivals. It’s one of several deals that could get held up if there’s any political turmoil following the second-round vote on July 7.

KKR and TPG are among suitors which have expressed initial interest in $11 billion Italian drugmaker Recordati SpA, Bloomberg News reported in June, while EQT is considering a potential sale of Karo Healthcare in a deal that could value the Swedish consumer-health business at more than €2 billion ($2.1 billion). 

(Updates with Sanofi’s share moves in sixth paragraph.)

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