Pfizer ($PFE) has collected first-round bids for its nutritionals unit, sources tell Bloomberg, and food giants Nestle ($NESN) and Danone ($BN) are among them. The drugmaker is planning to divest that business somehow as part of its corporate renovation plans, but it hasn't officially said whether it has chosen to sell or spin it off.
In fact, the company has made a point of warning that it won't talk about the deal until it's good and ready. "The process of exploring strategic alternatives for Pfizer’s nutrition business is ongoing," spokeswoman Joan Campion told the news service, echoing previous statements almost exactly. "We're currently pursuing the activities associated with evaluating all options, including sale, spin-off or other transaction."
What Campion would commit to: The company expects to announce a decision this year. Analysts have said the nutrionals unit could bring more than $10 billion, based on its $2 billion in 2010 sales. Pfizer is also looking at an animal-health deal, which could bring even more. The latest word out of that deal was that Pfizer was leaning toward a spinoff of that division, rather than a sale. Analysts have said the two units together would be worth $25 billion to $32 billion.
The two potential deals came out of a companywide review CEO Ian Read (photo) launched soon after he took over last January. In July, Read announced the animal health and nutritionals businesses were designated for offloading, leaving Pfizer's consumer health business and generics operations on board. Some investors were disappointed by the company's decision to slim down only partway; they'd been hoping for a wholesale breakup of the company. In any case, the dealmaking process has been slow. The company initially said it hoped to wrap it up within 12 to 24 months, and sources now say it'll be later rather than sooner.
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