- Associated Press - Friday, September 3, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) - Drug and medical device firm Abbott Laboratories said Friday it has abandoned plans to sell its vaccines unit, less than three months after exploring sales talks with rival companies.

North Chicago-based Abbott acquired the unit as part of its $6.2 billion purchase of Belgium-based Solvay Pharmaceuticals in February.

“We explored the option to potentially sell the business and determined it was in the best interest of Abbott and the vaccines business to retain it and integrate it into the company,” said Abbott spokesman Scott Stoffell. Analysts speculated that European vaccine powerhouses such as GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Novartis AG would have been interested in the business.

Solvay’s flu vaccine Influvac was initially seen as one of the key products in the transaction, giving Abbott an entry into the burgeoning vaccines market, which currently is dominated by the European companies. Solvay’s vaccine sales topped $197 million last year, according to Abbott.

Vaccines, usually given as injections or liquids, rev up the body’s immune system to produce antibodies that can later fight off attempts by bacteria or viruses to infect a person. Glaxo, Merck & Co. Inc. and other companies have boosted spending on vaccines in recent years to capture business from emerging markets such as China and India.

Through the Solvay purchase, Abbott gained access to such markets in Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Solvay Pharmaceuticals generated about $850 million in total sales from these and other markets last year.

After failing to find an attractive buyer for Solvay’s vaccine unit, Abbott must now integrate the business _ along with a growing number of smaller companies _ into its $30 billion global operation.

Abbott has undertaken an aggressive acquisition campaign in the last two years in an effort to diversify its sales. The company’s best-selling product Humira, which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases, generated nearly a fifth of the company’s revenue last year.

Abbott’s small-to-midsize acquisitions have included contact lens solution maker Advanced Medical Optics; Evalve, a maker of heart repair equipment; and Facet Biotech Corp.

Shares of Abbott Laboratories Inc. fell 11 cents Friday to $50.72 in afternoon trading.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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