ShareThis Page
Business

Bristol-Myers may sell drugstore line

| Thursday, Jan. 6, 2005

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. is in talks to sell its consumer over-the-counter drug line, which includes pain relievers Excedrin and Bufferin, cold medicine Comtrex and Keri lotions, according to published reports.

The pharmaceutical giant, which has struggled to restructure in the face of lost patents on key drugs, is working to shed noncore consumer products as it focuses on drugs to treat and prevent disease, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday on their Web sites, citing people familiar with the discussions.

A Bristol-Myers spokesman declined to comment on Wednesday.

The Times cited unnamed executives as saying UK-based GlaxoSmithKline Plc and some private equity firms were interested in the unit. A deal could happen as quickly as next week, executives told the Times.

Malesia Dunn, spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline's Moon-based North American Consumer Healthcare unit, said the company does not comment on rumors.

If Glaxo were to acquire Bristol-Myers' consumer brands, it could mean a boost in employment at the Moon headquarters, where about 500 work.

Glaxo sells the BC and Goody's brand pain relief powders, primarily in the South, as well as Ecotrin coated aspirin. It also makes the Contac cold medication that competes with Comtrex.

It also makes Tums antacid tablets, AquafFresh toothpaste and Nicorette smoking-cessation products, among its more than 30 brands with about $1.6 billion in North American sales in 2003.

Analysts estimate the consumer medicines unit to be worth $700 million to $1 billion, the Times reported.

Bristol-Myers also sells cholesterol drug Pravachol, blood thinner Plavix, and cancer treatment Paraplatin. The company's diabetes drug, Glucophage, and Paraplatin recently lost patent protection and sales have skidded.

The drug maker has been shedding noncore assets as it moves to sharpen its focus on drug discovery and marketing. Last month, New York-based Bristol-Myers sold its Oncology Therapeutics Network business to an affiliate of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. for undisclosed terms. In 2001, it sold Clairol hair products line to Procter & Gamble Co. for $4.9 billion

The over-the-counter unit accounts for less than 2 percent of the company's $21 billion in annual sales. David Moskowitz, an analyst at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey, had mixed feeling about the sale because while the business has low margins it also generates cash flow that helps maintain Bristol-Myers' dividend. Numerous analysts have noted that the 4.5 percent dividend is helping prop up Bristol-Myers' stock at a time when the company's sales and profits are under pressure.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me