UPDATED: Novo Nordisk joins pharma's IPO clique with plans for tech subsidiary spinoff

It's official: Novo Nordisk ($NVO) has joined the spinoff club. The Danish drugmaker says it's ready to let its information technology unit, NNIT, go solo via an initial public offering.

Few details are available at the moment; Novo Nordisk announced the decision in a bare-bones press release. The company says it will take place in 4 or 5 weeks but won't say how big the offering might be. What's certain is that it's another example of a drugmaker sharpening its focus by hiving off subsidiaries and business units.

Carsten Krogsgaard Thomsen

Novo has been weighing the prospect since last January, when the company named a new CFO for NNIT, Carsten Krogsgaard Thomsen, and charged him with reviewing a spinoff. In March, Novo hired Morgan Stanley and Danske Bank to advise on the potential offering. The questions were the usual ones: Could hiving off NNIT "create value"? Would NNIT be better off on its own?

Independence might make it easier for NNIT to compete for clients. NNIT brought in about 2.2 billion kroner in 2013, or about $404 million, and external customers have accounted for an increasing share of those sales. For 2014, that share was expected to be about 50%. That's one reason why Novo was looking at a stock offering, Thomsen said last year.

"An IPO will provide the company with improved access to the capital markets and stronger brand recognition, among other benefits," NNIT said in a separate press release (as quoted by Reuters).

The IT unit has been edging its way toward solo status for years. Novo Nordisk formally set NNIT aside in an independent, wholly owned subsidiary back in 1998. Last year's sales amounted to 2.4 billion kroner.

Novo's is the second spinoff announcement so far this year. Last week, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) said it was moving toward an IPO for its HIV joint venture, ViiV Healthcare, and would decide for certain by midyear. That would be a much bigger deal; with its £1.5 billion in 2014 sales, analysts see ViiV valued at £12 billion to £18 billion ($18 billion to $27 billion). 

- see the release from Novo Nordisk
- get more from Reuters

Editor's note: This story was updated with timing for the IPO and 2014 sales for NNIT.