Big Pharma bids for animal-health assets

Seeking clarity about those much-watched animal health spinoffs? Have we got a story for you. A second round of bids for Merck and Schering-Plough's veterinary businesses are due next week, sources tell Reuters, with a final decision expected by month's end. Meanwhile, Pfizer and Wyeth are selling off some animal health assets, too, and that auction is set to wrap up by the end of July as well. So we'll all know one way or another in a few weeks.

You'll recall that antitrust regulators have raised questions about Merck's merger with Schering and Pfizer's deal for Wyeth. In both cases, the companies zeroed in on their animal health operations for partial or complete spinoff. There's no shortage of interest in the assets, either, with much of Big Pharma into veterinary drugs as well as the human sort. Bayer was rumored to be bidding last week, and Reuters' unnamed sources also tagged Eli Lilly, Novartis and Boehringer Ingelheim. Sanofi-Aventis is an obvious tire-kicker, of course, because it's partnered with Merck on the Merial animal health J.V.

The question is, just what's for sale? During first-round bids in the Merck-Schering auction, bidders had to submit offers for their own choice of assets, because the sellers hadn't identified which would be sold. Merck and Schering planned to decide whether to sell--and which to sell--after reviewing those offers. "We are exploring the opportunities open to us by evaluating the potential for divesting Schering-Plough's animal health business or Merck's interest in Merial," Merck spokeswoman Amy Rose told the news service. "There have not been any decisions made at this point."

- read the Reuters article