NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Pfizer's ( PFE) shares fell slightly in premarket trading after the pharmaceutical company said Thursday it would explore the sale of its animal health and nutrition businesses.

The New York company, in a press release, said it hoped to maximize shareholder value with a full or partial separation of the two businesses, which included a sale, spinoff or other transaction.

The company said that it had asked JPMorgan ( JPM) to evaluate the business alternatives for the two units. Pfizer expected a transaction to occur for each division within the next one to two years.

"Both Animal Health and Nutrition are strong businesses," said Ian Read, Pfizer's CEO. "In exploring these alternatives, we can determine what options will best drive their future growth opportunities and expansion, and enable shareholders to potentially realize higher value for these businesses."

Pfizer's animal health unit develops vaccines and medicines for pets and livestock. It was established in 1959 and has annual sales of about $3.6 billion. The nutrition unit, which has sales of about $1.9 billion, has provided medicine for children and infants for about a century, Pfizer said on its Web site.

Pfizer shares were down 20 cents to $20.58 in premarket trading Thursday.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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