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Pfizer Nears Deals for Nutrition, Animal Health Units: Report

Stocks in this article: PFE MJN ABT

Updated from 6:43 p.m. ET to include response from Pfizer spokesperson.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Pfizer (PFE) may be close to deciding on a sale of its baby nutrition unit and an initial public offering of its animal health business, The Wall Street Journal reported after the market close on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources.

While Pfizer CEO Ian Read has telegraphed the divestiture of both units since mid-2011, The Journal reports that the pharmaceuticals giant may announce a baby health sale to Nestlé for $9 billion as early as next week.

Meanwhile, Pfizer may hire JPMorgan (JPM), Bank of America (BAC) and Morgan Stanley (MS) to lead an initial public offering of its animal vaccine and drug unit as early as this summer. The potential deals would be a boost to M&A and IPO markets, which have stalled in 2012.

In response to a query from the TheStreet, a Pfizer spokesperson said "with respect to the Animal Health business, we believe that a public transaction is most likely. That said, no decisions have been made at this point."

The spokesperson added in the emailed statement, "We view the future of Pfizer as a company with 2 distinct biopharma businesses along with a Consumer products businesses: 1. The Innovative Core and 2. Established Products."

The potential asset sales and IPOs -- Bloomberg data shows they took in $6.3 billion in revenue -- could mark a wider breakup effort by Read, who has spoken about Pfizer's re-commitment to its drug research and development as some of the company's key drugs, led by Lipitor, go generic.

In a March meeting, Goldman Sachs analyst Jami Rubin wrote in a report that Read hinted at a multi-year breakup of Pfizer far beyond his previously announced divestiture plans. Healthcare giants Abbott Laboratories (ABT) and Covidien (COV) have been pursuing multi-billion spinoff plans since last year.

"We recently met with PFE's CEO Ian Read, who expressed an openness to going further with separations beyond Animal Health and Nutrition if the conditions make sense... This, coupled with the CEO's openness to consider unlocking further value, could create an attractive situation with significant upside," wrote Rubin of the meeting in a March 27 note to clients.

If Pfizer were to undergo a full breakup, Rubin expects it to occur in three parts, with a previously stated intention to separate the New York-based company's animal health and nutrition units being just the first step.

In July, CEO Read said that Pfizer was exploring strategic alternatives for its animal health and nutrition units. Tuesday's Wall Street Journal report signals that Danone of France and Mead Johnson (MJN) could lose out in bids for Pfizer's nutrition business. The report also indicates that Pfizer would favor an IPO over a previously reported prospective sale of its animal health unit to Bayer for up to $18 billion.

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