Pharmaceutical firm Merck is considering selling its allergy business Allergopharma, according to reports.
Sources close to the matter told Bloomberg that the German company is currently in the early stages of deciding whether to put the unit up for sale. If they go ahead with it, rival drugs companies and private equity firms are expected to be among those who bid.
They estimated the resulting deal will bring in around €600m (£423m) for Merck, but added that it is by no means definite.
The deal would help Merck in its drive to reduce debt following a $17bn (£11.3bn) takeover of American life sciences and biotech company Sigma-Aldrich, which was completed earlier this month. The purchase will help Merck be less dependant on the medicines it already owns, but has left a hole in its finances.
Allergopharma focuses on diagnosing and treating allergies by teaching the body's immune system not to react to the substances that usually trigger a reaction, such as pollen or dust. It works on developing treatments for a wide range of allergies, such as hayfever and allergic asthma.
Shares in the company initially climbed by 0.5 per cent to €96.72 in morning trading in Germany, but have since fallen back down and are currently 0.3 per cent lower than yesterday. Merck was not immediately available to comment on the rumour.