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Report: GSK has leading bid for Pfizer's consumer healthcare business

GlaxoSmithKline PLC has the leading bid in the auction for Pfizer Inc.'s consumer healthcare business, which sells branded over-the-counter products, the Financial Times reported March 21, citing anonymous sources.

The British drugmaker topped a competing bid from Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC for the business, the news outlet reported, citing people involved in the process.

GSK and Reckitt Benckiser submitted their final offers for the U.S. pharmaceutical giant's unit before the deadline on March 21.

Pfizer plans to sell the consumer healthcare business for as much as $20 billion, the news outlet reported.

Reckitt Benckiser was only looking to acquire part of the Pfizer consumer healthcare business and has now ended discussions regarding a possible acquisition.

"An acquisition for the whole Pfizer consumer health business did not fit our acquisition criteria and an acquisition of part of the business was not possible," Reckitt Benckiser CEO Rakesh Kapoor said in a statement.

Previously, GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley said on an earnings call that there was no immediate requirement for a large-scale deal. She said the company was "very happy" with its consumer business and that its top priority was to bolster its own pharmaceutical pipeline organically.

Pharmaceutical giants Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson and Swiss food company Nestlé SA had also shown interest in the Pfizer unit but did not make an offer in earlier bidding rounds, the Financial Times reported.