Merck, Sanofi plot animal health unit sale

Sanofi-Aventis and Merck, which last year combined their animal health operations, plan to sell the unit for about $1 billion, Bloomberg reports. Possible buyers include Pfizer, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Eli Lilly and Novartis, though bidding for the unit won't get underway until later this year.

Sanofi bough Merck's half of Merial animal health last year, and Merck gained Schering-Plough's Intervet when it purchased the company for $41.1 billion last year. Sanofi and Merck combined the two business to create the world's largest animal health unit.

In recent year pet owners have become more willing to spend big bucks on their animal's health, attracting drugmakers who are eager to reach a market less influenced by insurance companies than the human drug sector. The worldwide animal health market reached $19 billion in 2008 and is expected to grow five percent per year for the next five years, driven in part by a growing demand for protein therapeutics. "Merial's products include a bird-flu vaccine for poultry and Frontline, the best-selling flea spray for pets, while Intervet makes a device to vaccinate pigs without a needle and the Safe-Guard treatment to deworm dogs," explains Bloomberg.

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