A report in the Indian media is suggesting the race to take over GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) consumer nutrition business – which includes the Horlicks bedtime malt drink brand – is now a straight fight between food giants Nestle and Unilever.

The Economic Times reports the final round of negotiations for the unit will involve only those two as drink giant Coca-Cola Co., previously linked with a bid, has dropped out of the race.

GSK revealed in March that it was planning a partial or full sale of its 72.5% stake in its Indian subsidiary GSK Consumer Healthcare by the end of this year. 

The Economic Times quoted sources as saying bids for GSK’s stake in the business will likely be between US$3.1bn and $3.5bn, with the successful bidder then having to buy an additional 26% through an open offer.

Previously a whole host of food businesses were linked with making a bid for the Horlicks-led unit, including Reckitt Benckiser, General Mills, Kellogg and Danone. Private-equity fund KKR was also mentioned as a possible buyer.

Deadline for submitting the final binding offer was 17 November. However, it has been extended by a few days, the newspaper report suggests.

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just-food has contacted GSK, Nestle, Unilever and Coca-Cola for a response to the newspaper report.

Nestle and Unilever both said they do not comment on market rumours while Coca-Cola said it had no comment to make.

GSK would only say: “We are conducting a strategic review and aim to conclude it by the end of the year.”

Read just-food’s analysis: Why Nestle is seen as front of pack in Horlicks race