A $635M win-win deal boosts Pfizer in vaccines, slims Baxter for spinoff

Susan Silbermann

Looks like Pfizer's finally getting the vaccines expansion it's been hankering for. The company agreed to pick up Baxter's marketed vaccines portfolio for $635 million, building up its own business as the Illinois healthcare company slims down for a pharma unit spinoff next year.

Pfizer ($PFE) will nab NeisVac-C--a meningitis C vaccine--and FSME-IMMUN/TicoVac, which protects against tick-borne encephalitis. Both are available outside the U.S., and Baxter ($BAX) said it expects them to rack up about $300 million in 2014 revenue. The deal also includes a portion of Baxter's manufacturing facility in Orth, Austria, where the vaccines are produced.

While Pfizer boasts the best-selling vaccine in the world in pneumococcal disease-fighter Prevnar 13, it doesn't have much else. With the Baxter deal, Pfizer expands beyond the Prevnar franchise--a prime objective for CEO Ian Read, who well knows that Pfizer trails rivals Merck ($MRK), Sanofi ($SNY) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) in the vaccine business.

"We are working hard to bring innovative vaccines to market that prevent and treat serious diseases," Pfizer Vaccines President Susan Silbermann said in a statement. "Through this acquisition, we will add two high-quality and life-saving vaccines that bring scale and depth to our portfolio."

For Baxter, the selloff is part of a larger slim-down strategy as the Deerfield-based company follows in the footsteps of its Big Pharma peers--Pfizer included. Earlier this year, Baxter said it would spin off its biopharma unit to focus on its larger medical device business. And within that biopharma unit, its priorities lie beyond vaccines.

Ludwig Hantson

Baxter BioScience President Ludwig Hantson said the vaccines sale will help "optimize" its pharma portfolio as his BioScience group prepares for independence. "We are redirecting resources and investing in our robust pipeline centered on core areas of expertise-- hematology and immunology--and through technology platforms like gene therapy and biosimilars," Hantson said in a statement.

But doubling down on hematology, for one, will be no walk in the park. Baxter's hemophilia drugs, which power the majority of its pharma revenues, face some next-gen competition from Biogen Idec ($BIIB)--and the Massachusetts biotech has priced its rival treatments on par with the older market-leaders, priming the market for some patient-switching.

- read Pfizer's release
- read Baxter's release
- see The Wall Street Journal's take (sub. req.)

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