Solvay shops for buyers for its pharma unit

Brussels-based Solvay Group today confirmed reports that the company is considering selling its pharmaceuticals unit. In a statement issued early Wednesday, Solvay said it was analyzing "various options for its pharmaceuticals unit" and was involved in "discussions with third parties." Citing those ever-present people "familiar with the matter," the Wall Street Journal reports that the company has already held preliminary discussions with prospective buyers. Bayer, Sanofi-Aventis, Abbott Labs, and AstraZeneca and Merck KGaA are among the potential bidders, according to WSJ sources, although all have declined to comment.

Solvay, which also sells chemicals and plastics, was founded in 1863 as a chemical manufacturer by Ernest Solvay. As its fastest-growing and most profitable division, a deal for Solvay's pharma unit could could fetch up to €5 billion ($6.6 billion), the Journal reports. In 2008, pharma sales accounted for 28 percent of the company's €2.7 billion in revenue--a 4 percent increase over the previous year, despite a 1 percent drop in company-wide sales. Solvay's product line includes drugs for cholesterol, hypertension, Parkinson's disease and hormone replacement therapies for men and woman. The cholesterol med TriLipix, which Solvay co-markets with Abbott, was approved for use alone or in combo with a statin in December. Abbott is now working with AstraZeneca to bring a Crestor-TriLipix combo to the market.

- check out Solvay's release
- read more at WSJ