Lilly eyes vet assets; Pfizer says all or nothing

Might Eli Lilly ($LLY) emerge as a buyer for Pfizer's animal health business? CFO Derica Rice told Lilly investors that the company is keeping an eye on Pfizer's plans for the unit, which may be sold or spun off. If Lilly likes any of the available assets, it would pursue them, Rice said.

When asked about that pledge, Pfizer said that it doesn't envision selling off the animal health business in pieces. The whole unit would be sold or spun off, spokeswoman Joan Campion told Bloomberg. "While we are evaluating a variety of options including a sale, spin-off or other transaction, we believe we will favor one overall option rather than dividing assets and business operations," Campion told the news service.

Pfizer has tagged its animal health and nutrition units for disposal, so it can return cash to shareholders and focus on pharma development. The units could bring in more than $20 billion; the animal health unit alone had 2010 sales of $3.48 billion, Bloomberg notes. A deal of that size could be beyond Lilly's ken; CEO John Lechleiter has repeatedly said he's not in the market for a big buyout.

Pfizer will be weighing its options for the animal health unit for at least a year, Campion said.

- read the Bloomberg story