Nestle says Pfizer baby food deal cleared by Chinese authorities

Fri Nov 2, 2012 12:59pm EDT

* Nestle buying Pfizer infant nutrition unit for $11.85 bln

* CEO says integration to be completed in about a month

* Says always open to acquisition opportunities

LAUSANNE, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Nestle SA's $11.9 billion purchase of Pfizer Inc's baby food business has won approval in China, taking the Swiss group a step towards sealing a deal which still rests on months of bargaining with antitrust authorities.

Asked whether Chinese regulators had cleared the transaction, Chief Executive Paul Bulcke said: "It was just this week."

Nestle is acquiring Pfizer's infant nutrition unit to combine it with its existing infant formula business.

Bulcke, speaking on the sidelines of the inauguration of the Nestle Institute of Health Sciences, said the Pfizer integration was on track and could be completed in about a month.

Nestle declined comment on whether the deal had been approved in other countries or regions.

Analysts have said the company may have to sell up to 30 percent of the Pfizer businesses, including those in Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, as part of an approval process which may take up to 12 months.

"We are pleased that Nestle's acquisition of Pfizer Nutrition has been approved in China," the company said. "The acquisition is still subject to other closing conditions. We therefore do not make any further comment at this stage.

Bulcke also signalled Nestle could look at further deals.

"You have to look at how many opportunities are out there ... We're happy with what may come and we'll embrace that. We're always open to opportunities," he said.

Asked if Nestle could do more deals of the size of the Pfizer unit purchase, Bulcke said: "That's a big acquisition ... we don't do that every day."

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