Pfizer may spin off animal health

Pfizer CEO Ian Read is considering spinning off the Pfizer Animal Health unit rather than selling it, according to a news report from Reuters.

In a report published March 13, 2012, Read said there were "clear attractions" for shareholders in a tax-free spin-off of the Animal Health unit.

Reports surfaced last week that Pfizer rebuffed an offer from Novartis AG as too low. Drugmaker Bayer has also been considering bids for the Pfizer animal unit, which reports estimate could sell for between $14 billion and $20 billion.

According to Reuters, Read is shrinking the Pfizer group by divesting non-core businesses including veterinary medicine and infant nutrition. Bidders were asked to submit offers last week for the nutrition business, and it is expected to be sold for around $10 billion.

Pfizer Animal Health is the largest animal health business, and could stand alone as an individual company. If Pfizer decides to sell, it would face a high tax bill and substantial antitrust barriers, factors that may contribute to its decision to spin off the unit instead.

Read more from Reuters.