Pfizer May Sell Consumer Drug Arm
US drug major Pfizer is looking at divesting its $3.5 billion consumer health unit to free up $14 billion in cash, the news agency Reuters has reported, quoting anonymous sources. The news agency said, however, there is “no indication” whether CEO Ian Read is considering an outright sale, a swap or a tax-free spin-off. The latter is the route it chose to shed its Zoetis animal health business in 2013.
Reuters quotes Evercore ISI analysts as saying the unit could potentially bring in more than $3.5 billion, adding that Bayer paid over $14 billion for US Merck’s consumer health business in 2014, well exceeding the company’s original target of $10 billion. Analysts said the mooted sale plan indicates that Pfizer continues to be interested in corporate restructuring transactions, even if its earlier inversion attempt as part of a proposed merger with Allergan was blocked by US President Barack Obama.
Addressing questions about a possible consumer health divestment in a recent conference call to present third quarter financial results, CEO Read commented that this is a valuable business that is growing well, “but like all our businesses, we look at them and we subject them to tests of are they worth more inside or outside of Pfizer?”
If Pfizer does decide to divest, Reuters said there could be “any number of interested buyers.” Several companies have made significant efforts to grow their consumer health businesses, it said, while recalling earlier remarks by OTC specialist Reckitt Benckiser that the UK-based company would be “very interested” in Pfizer’s consumer health products if they went up for sale.