Abbott looks to sell its flu vaccine unit

NEW YORK Tue Jun 29, 2010 10:15am EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Abbott Laboratories Inc (ABT.N) is exploring the sale of its flu vaccine unit acquired as part of its purchase of Solvay's (SOLB.BR) drugs unit.

"Abbott is exploring the option to potentially sell the Solvay vaccines business," Abbott spokesman Scott Stoffel said.

The deal could fetch 500 million euros ($614 million), the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Illinois-based Abbott earlier this year completed its $6.2 billion acquisition of Belgium's Solvay Pharmaceuticals. The unit's flu vaccine Influvac had 162 million euros ($197 million) in sales last year, with its sales occurring outside the United States.

Solvay's cell-based flu vaccine production facility was validated last September, just before the Abbott deal was announced.

According to the Journal, Abbott launched an auction last week, sending marketing materials to a handful of large healthcare companies.

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.

Abbott shares were down 1.3 percent at $46.56 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, as the broader market fell.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; additional reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore, editing by Dave Zimmerman)

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