Pfizer to explore options for consumer healthcare unit, including spin-off, sale

Pfizer said Tuesday that it is reviewing strategic options for its consumer healthcare business, including a full or partial separation of the unit through a spin-off, sale or other transaction. The company added that it may also decide to retain the business, which generated sales of approximately $3.4 billion last year.

CEO Ian Read remarked "although there is a strong connection between consumer healthcare and elements of our core biopharmaceutical businesses, it is also distinct enough from our core business that there is potential for its value to be more fully realised outside the company." The drugmaker indicated that it will make a final decision regarding the future of the unit next year.

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In 2013, Pfizer unveiled plans to split its internal commercial operations into three units, including one division encompassing vaccines, oncology and consumer healthcare. The drugmaker later decided against splitting its innovative health and essential health units into separate entities.

Reports suggested that Pfizer's consumer healthcare business, which could fetch as much as $14 billion in a sale, may draw interest from firms such as Abbott, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble and Reckitt Benckiser. A source familiar with the matter said that Pfizer anticipates a "broadening" of interest, with non-traditional firms such as Nestlé potentially pursuing an acquisition of the business.

The news comes after Merck KGaA announced last month that it was weighing strategic options for its consumer health business, which could include a partial or complete sale of the unit.

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