Merck KGaA (MKGAY) said Tuesday that it may sell all or part of its consumer healthcare business as the German pharmaceutical group looks to strategic options to boost shareholder value.

Merck said the sale of the unit, which had €860 million ($1.02 billion) in sales last year, would help continue the group's shift towards becoming a "leading science and technology company" and that proceeds would be used to deliver on the company's overall financial targets. 

"We have continued to transform Merck over the last years into a leading science and technology company," said chairman Stefan Oschmann. "Thereby we regularly review our portfolio in the context of our innovation driven strategy. Healthcare largely focuses on its Biopharma pipeline."

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Merck posted weaker-than-expected second quarter earnings last month and trimmed its full-year sales forecasts owing, in part, to the strength of the European single currency, which has gained nearly 12% against the U.S. dollar since the beginning of April.

Merck's overall healthcare unit posted a modest 1.65% increase in net sales for the second quarter, taking the top line to €1.783 billion, or around 46% of the company's total revenue. Healthcare group earnings, however, were 16.6% lower from the same period last year owing to "higher investments and negative mix effects exceeding income from milestone payment for Bavencio", its skincancer treatment, the company said.

Merck shares were marked 2.6% higher in the opening minutes of trading in Frankfurt to change hands at €94.40 each, trimming its three-month decline to around 12.8%.

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