Novartis in talks with Merck to exchange business units- Bloomberg

Wed Jan 8, 2014 9:48pm EST

Jan 8 (Reuters) - Novartis AG is in talks with Merck & Co Inc to exchange its animal-health and human vaccines businesses for the drugmaker's over-the-counter health-products unit, Bloomberg reported, quoting people familiar with the matter.

The two drugmakers may each trade about $5 billion in assets as part of the trade, the report said. ()

The Swiss drugmaker was ready to sell its animal health subsidiary and opened its books to Bayer and other rivals for the business that could change hands for more than 3 billion euros ($4.1 billion), sources familiar with the matter had told Reuters last month.

Drugmakers are shedding businesses and cutting costs due to overseas price controls and pressure on payments from insurers and the government. Pfizer Inc completed a spin off of its animal health products business in June.

Novartis has not finalized a deal with Merck, and may choose another option, Bloomberg said.

A Novartis spokeswoman told Reuters that the company does not comment on market rumor or speculation.

Merck was not immediately available for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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