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GlaxoSmithKline in talks to buy Stiefel

British-based pharmaceuticals firm GlaxoSmithKline PLC is in talks to buy privately-owned US skincare specialist Stiefel Laboratories, a source familiar with the situation said.

It was unclear whether a deal for the firm would be reached, the source said. The source declined to be identified because the talks are not public.

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that a $3 billion deal for Stiefel, part-owned by buyout firm Blackstone Group, is expected to be announced on Monday. The Journal also said there is still a chance it could fall apart.

Stiefel is the world's largest independent dermatology company and is viewed as a potentially attractive asset for major drugmakers, industry experts have said.

The Journal said the business had drawn interest from a number of major drug companies, including Johnson & Johnson and Novartis AG.

A possible deal between GlaxoSmithKline and Stiefel would come on the heels of four other deals in the pharmaceuticals sector this year, three of which were massive mergers.

Pfizer Inc paid $65 billion for Wyeth, Merck & Co offered $46 billion for a takeover of Schering Plough, and Roche Holding AG dished out $47 billion for a buyout of Genentech Inc.

Most recently, Express Scripts agreed to buy health insurer WellPoint Inc's prescription business for $4.68 billion.

The deal rush has sparked speculation of a further wave of consolidation in the sector, and investment bankers have said we are now likely to see smaller acquisitions valued from a few hundred million dollars up to about $20 billion.

Another person familiar with the matter told Reuters a month ago that Stiefel was considering selling itself and had asked Blackstone to seek offers for the business.

The source had told Reuters that Blackstone and the company's family owners were seeking a speedy sale. (Reuters)