Novartis officially bows out of vaccines with flu sale to CSL

Novartis' ($NVS) 8-year foray into vaccines is officially coming to a close. After divesting the bulk of its unit to GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) in an April deal, the pharma giant Sunday announced it had agreed to sell its flu shot business to Australia's CSL. And with that, it'll make its exit from a field that's given it trouble since its Chiron buyout in 2006.

While the $275 million Novartis will reap from the deal isn't a great bargain--the Swiss pharma will be forced to take an impairment charge of $1.1 billion on the deal--CEO Joe Jimenez praised the company as an ideal divestment partner.

"In CSL, we have found not only an owner for the influenza business that shares our commitment to protecting public health, but also a strong growth platform for the business and our associates," he said in a statement.

Perhaps just as important for Novartis is that CSL will help the drug giant wash its hands of a business that posted a $165 million operating loss last year. Between this deal and April's $7.1 billion Glaxo sale, Novartis should be completely done with vaccines by the second half of next year.

On the flip side, a beefed-up CSL will now be geared up to take on industry heavyweights Sanofi ($SNY), AstraZeneca ($AZN) and GlaxoSmithKline in the flu vaccine marketplace. According to the company, which will combine the new assets with existing vaccines and pharma subsidiary bioCSL, the acquisition will create the second largest vaccine company in the global flu vaccine industry. The new entity will boast manufacturing plants in the U.S., the U.K., Germany and Australia, with both pre-pandemic and pandemic capabilities.

"This will transform bioCSL's existing influenza vaccine business, giving us first class facilities, global scale and product and geographical diversity," bioCSL's general manager, John Anderson, said in a statement.

- read Novartis' release
- read CSL's release

Special Report: The top 5 vaccine makers by 2013 revenue - Novartis