Pfizer is intent on shedding noncore businesses. AstraZeneca is intent on adding any small company that might bring revenue.
Such were underlying motivations for billion-dollar deals announced Monday by the two pharmaceutical giants, both of which have operations in the Philadelphia region.
Pfizer Inc. sold its infant nutrition division to Nestle SA for $11.85 billion while AstraZeneca P.L.C. spent $1.26 billion to buy San Diego-based Ardea Biosciences Inc., which has a promising, but not-yet-ready, medicine for gout.
Pfizer had $67.4 billion in total revenue in 2011 and the nutrition division yielded a bit more than $2.1 billion, so unlike pharmaceuticals, it was not a core category. But the sale could mean a big change for more than 60 Pfizer employees in Collegeville who are part of the nutrition unit, which arrived with the rest of Wyeth in 2009. The division has 5,400 employees in 60 countries, five factories, and three research and development centers.
Based in Switzerland, Nestle is famous for its chocolate products, but it also holds such baby brands as Gerber. It wanted the Pfizer revenue from Asia, where Nestle is not as strong. Nestle also did not want rivals Danone or Mead Johnson to get Pfizer's slice of the $30 billion a year infant-nutrition business.
Pfizer's stock closed down 18 cents to $22.38 Monday.
"We remain focused on enhancing shareholder value and, following the completion of this divestiture, we expect to allocate the after-tax proceeds to further share repurchases, or invest in other business-development opportunities, with the return on share repurchases remaining our case to beat," Pfizer chief executive officer Ian Read said in a statement.
Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has been under pressure to replace revenue from top-selling drugs that face generic competition. AstraZeneca is based in the United Kingdom, but has operations in Wilmington and Newark, Del. The company has had several rounds of layoffs recently.
Gout is a common form of inflammatory arthritis causing pain, especially in men. Estimates vary on how many have the condition — from two million to six million Americans — but the obesity, diet and drinking habits of many Americans suggest that it might increase.
Ardea's drug, lesinurad, is in phase III trials, usually the last step before an application is made to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"This attractive phase III program is an excellent opportunity to leverage AstraZeneca's global specialty and primary-care sales and marketing capabilities," AstraZeneca chief executive officer David Brennan said in a statement. "The Ardea team has done a great job developing lesinurad along with a promising next-generation gout program."