Abbott looks to sell its flu vaccine unit - WSJ

June 29 Tue Jun 29, 2010 12:58am EDT

June 29 (Reuters) - U.S. drugmaker Abbott Laboratories Inc (ABT.N) is looking to sell its flu vaccine business in a deal that could fetch 500 million euros ($614 million), the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Abbott had recently bought the flu vaccine unit from Belgian drugmaker Solvay (SOLB.BR). The unit has business exposure in eastern Europe.

"We are now exploring the option to potentially sell Solvay's vaccine business," an Abbott spokeswoman told the Journal.

The company had launched an auction last week, sending marketing materials to a handful of large healthcare companies, a person told the paper.

The flu vaccine unit, which will clock about 200 million euros in sales this year, is expected to draw interest from big pharma companies, the paper said.

Abbott could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside regular U.S. business hours.

Several big drug companies have invested heavily in production of new flu vaccine in recent years, partly trying to cash in on pandemic flu viruses.

The drug makers see vaccines as an alternative area for growth amid increasing competition for their core drug offerings, according to the Journal. ($1=.8143 Euro) (Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)