Pfizer move disappoints break-up champions

No decision makes everybody happy, but Pfizer's ($PFE) choice to shed its animal health and nutrition businesses has gladdened few hearts. It's not the "exploring strategic alternatives" for those two units that has people sniping. It's that Pfizer isn't exploring those options for two other businesses.

Back when CEO Ian Read (photo) first announced Pfizer's strategic review, some analysts and investors were jubilant. They had hoped the company would not only shed these two businesses, but that it would break itself up even more by selling or spinning off its off-patent drugs business and its consumer healthcare unit. Pfizer could then focus on prescription meds, namely developing new ones.

So, to these folks, Read hasn't gone nearly far enough. ISI Group analyst Joe Ruggieri called the announcement "a little disappointing given a lot of folks in for bigger break-up story here." Bernstein analyst Timothy Anderson said Read failed to follow through on "really the only innovative part to what [he] was considering," which would be breaking off the established products division.

But other Pfizer-watchers think the company would be smarter to hedge its bets on innovative new drugs. After all, the company doesn't have a stellar track record when it comes to moving drug candidates onto the market. "Should Pfizer double its dependence on what it does worst: Get new drugs out the door?" asks University of Michigan business professor Erik Gordon.

Goldman Sachs analyst Jami Rubin, who's been leading the break-up call, is holding out hope for more. Rubin tells Forbes the animal health and nutritionals units were obvious first choices for disposal, and she thinks divesting the other two units is still a possibility. In fact, it might be premature to sell off the generics business now, because it doesn't have the critical mass to compete with bigger companies in that space. "I don't think this will be the end of the breakup story," Rubin says. "This is the very beginning."

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- read the story from Bloomberg
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- check out the Barron's post