Vaccines sale figures into Baxter's breakup plans

Baxter International headquarters in Deerfield, IL--FiercePharma file photo

Spinoffs and unit sales are all the rage in the life sciences industry right now, and Baxter ($BAX) seems to have gotten the memo. The same day the company announced it would be dividing into separate biopharma and med tech companies come 2015, it revealed plans to sell its vaccines unit as part of the larger breakup.

As Reuters reports, Baxter is working on the divestiture of its vaccines business, execs confirmed on a Thursday morning conference call set up to discuss the company split. Citing unnamed sources, the news service reported Wednesday that the Deerfield, IL-based company had brought on Goldman Sachs to help it find a buyer and had already reached out to potential suitors.

Baxter is one of many pharma players reviewing options for its noncore businesses, but its potential unit sale differs from those of some of its peers in that its vaccines segment is profitable. Baxter's vaccine portfolio, which consists mainly of jabs for meningitis C and tick-borne encephalitis, as well as flu shot development collaborations, brought in $292 million in 2013 sales, a 15% jump over 2012's tally.

On the other hand, Novartis' ($NVS) vaccine business--also on the chopping block--was the only one of the Swiss pharma's units to post an operating loss in 2013, which totaled $165 million. The Basel-based company has also said its underperforming animal health and OTC pieces could be on the way out.

Still, that doesn't mean the Novartis vaccines division hasn't attracted suitors. While January rumors of a Novartis-Merck ($MRK) swap that would have sent the business to New Jersey have died down, reports last month said the business was generating its fair share of buyout interest.

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- read Wednesday's Reuters piece

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