December 5, 2011 / 11:06 AM / 9 years ago

Abbott dismisses talk of pharma unit sale

LONDON, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Abbott Laboratories has no intention of selling its soon-to-be-separated pharmaceuticals business to another drugmaker and any potential bidder would struggle to persuade management otherwise, its chief executive said on Monday.

Miles White told an industry conference in London speculation that Abbott’s drugs unit might be touted for sale was “incorrect”.

Abbott announced plans in October to split itself in two, in a move designed to increase Wall Street’s focus on the remaining diversified medical product business, which has tended to be overshadowed by pharmaceuticals.

The move prompted immediate talk the drugs arm could prove an attractive acquisition target. Analysts at Jefferies, for example, suggested it might be snapped up by the likes of Merck , Roche, AstraZeneca or Bayer in a couple of years.

White — who will run the diversified products company while his colleague Richard Gonzalez becomes CEO of pharmaceuticals — said this idea was wide of the mark.

“Is one or other (of the two companies) an acquisition candidate? The answer is ‘no’,” he told the FT Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology conference.

“You’re probably going to end up with two companies that are in the $40-45 billion range on day one. We’re not offering them for sale ... somebody would have to have an awful lot of cash and they’d have to have a ‘yes’ from a CEO and that would be a tough ‘yes’ to get.”

Abbott shares have been held back for years on concerns the company is too dependent on its flagship rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira, one of the world’s top-selling medicines at more than $8 billion a year.

Humira, an injected drug, is facing growing competitive threats, including possible cheaper generic versions and a pill being developed by Pfizer.

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