UPDATE 4-Nestle near deal for Pfizer's baby formula unit-WSJ
* Deal could be worth more than $9 bln - WSJ
* Bankers had seen Nestle as frontrunner over Danone/Mead
* Pfizer hires JPM, BofA, MS for animal health IPO -source
April 17 (Reuters) - Pfizer Inc is near a deal to sell its baby formula business to Swiss food giant Nestle SA for at least $9 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
Citing people familiar with the matter, the Journal said Nestle appears to have outstripped Danone and Mead Johnson Nutrition Co, who had teamed up for a bid, and that a deal could be announced as soon as next week.
Nestle, the world's biggest packaged food company, was already seen as a favored bidder due largely to its deep pockets.
Bloomberg reported that Danone and Nestle both submitted final offers of about $10 billion for the business, citing people with knowledge of the matter.
According to that report, Danone has told outsiders that it is unlikley to win the unit, but that Pfizer is trying to keep them in the auction, one of the people said. Bloomberg said a third bidder is no longer in the running.
Separately, Pfizer has hired JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley for a potential initial public offering of its animal health business, a source familiar with the situation said.
Pfizer put its infant nutrition and animal health businesses up for sale last July as it looks to focus on its core pharmaceuticals business.
A company official said on Tuesday that no decisions have been made and that Pfizer will be in a position to announce any decisions this year. The company expects to complete any transactions between July of this year and July 2013.
Regarding the animal health business, the official said a spin-off was most likely.
A Nestle spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
A person familiar with the negotiations said a deal for the infant nutrition unit was expected "in the near future," but not this week.
Pfizer's infant nutrition business sells baby formula and maternal supplements. It generates over 70 percent of its $2.1 billion in sales in emerging markets, with over a quarter coming from China, where the $6 billion market is expected to double by 2016.
The Pfizer business competes with products from Nestle and Danone, as well as Mead Johnson's Enfamil and Abbott Laboratories' Similac.
Pfizer shares closed 1.5 percent higher on Tuesday.
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