To buy Wyeth, Pfizer may need to sell

Don't tell Rover, but Pfizer may have to sell off some of its animal-health business to get the government to OK its buyout of Wyeth. At Cowen & Co.'s investor conference yesterday, CFO Frank D'Amelio (photo) said the sales probably wouldn't amount to more than 10 percent of Pfizer and Wyeth's combined animal-health revenue (an estimated $4 billion, out of a pro forma total combined revenue of $71 billion).

Pfizer has a "strong presence" in companion and livestock health products; Wyeth is strong in animal vaccines. And there's some overlap, D'Amelio admits. He says talks with antitrust officials are ongoing.

It's not unusual for companies to spin off assets to get the government's blessing on a deal. To win European Union approval of its recent buyout of generics maker Zentiva, for instance, Sanofi-Aventis had to agree to sell off rights to 15 drugs in Eastern Europe. And earlier this year, King Pharmaceuticals was forced to divest the painkiller Kadian to get the FTC to sign off on its acquisition of Alpharma.

Another possibility for divestment: Alzheimer's drugs. D'Amelio said "it's too early to tell" whether the combined company would be required to sell off any marketed or experimental meds for the disease.

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