Is the Pfizer-Glaxo JV a sale in the making?

We thought the Pfizer-GlaxoSmithKline HIV partnership was pretty exciting at face value, but Dow Jones has a tantalizing idea: That the combo is just a preliminary step toward a full-on spinoff-slash-sale. Evidence? The fact that Glaxo accounts for the lion's share of the JV's $2.4 billion in initial sales, namely, more than 90 percent. Glaxo won't benefit from any new Pfizer drugs in the near-term, because none of the latter's HIV candidates are even in Phase III yet. Plus, the joint venture won't exactly have an economies-of-scale advantage over other big HIV players such as Gilead Sciences and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

So, despite the fact that Glaxo chief Andrew Witty (photo) has made some strong arguments for the combo--such as the fact that a single-focus company might be more productive in research and at finding appropriate buyout/licensing deals--Dow Jones concludes that the JV isn't much of a long-term or short-term strategy move.

Ergo, it must be deal prep! The JV creates "an entity that can be neatly sold to another player or spun off as an independent company," the news service posits. Who might buy such an entity? Another company with HIV assets looking to scale up; Abbott Laboratories, say. As a spinoff, the JV would give investors some attractive cash flows in the near term and some R&D "upside" on the back end.

Pfizer told Dow Jones that there are no plans for a spinoff or sale at this point. Should there be? What do you think?

- check out the Dow Jones article