GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis, starring players in a Big Pharma deal bonanza

While the chattering classes were chattering about a potential Pfizer-AstraZeneca merger yesterday, three other drug giants were putting the finishing touches on a big announcement. Novartis ($NVS), whose strategic review has been making headlines for almost a year, agreed to swap some assets with GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and sell its animal health business to Eli Lilly ($LLY).

Altogether, the transactions are worth more than $25 billion, a decent-sized figure in the scheme of pharma M&A. Even bigger? The changes these deals will wreak at the three companies, Novartis and GSK in particular.

Glaxo will be out of the cancer business. Novartis will be out of vaccines and animal health. Together, the two companies will run a consumer health joint venture with a combined $11 billion or so in sales. And Eli Lilly will have an even heftier presence in animal health, where its Elanco unit already boasts major market share.

We've taken a look at the different pieces of the three-way deal frenzy in Tuesday's news coverage. Follow the links to find out more. But here are the basics:

Why did Glaxo choose to get out of the cancer business, and what does Novartis get for its $16 billion? CEOs Andrew Witty and Joe Jimenez have something to say about that.

What does GSK propose to do with Novartis' vaccines business, particularly its meningitis B shot Bexsero? Build scale and add sales in a business that relies on high volumes--advantages worth up to $7.1 billion in up-front and milestone payments.

How will Glaxo and Novartis meld their consumer health line-ups and save money in the process? In a joint venture controlled by GSK, with well-known brand names and distribution all over the world.

What will Lilly gain in picking up Novartis' animal health business for $5.4 billion? Status as the second-biggest animal health company worldwide, plus a boost to this year's top line, for starters.

We have one unanswered question, though. With rumors about Novartis' strategic review swirling for months, an asset swap with GSK never came up. How did these companies keep it quiet? -- Tracy Staton (email | Twitter)