Merck Explores Sale of Animal Health Assets

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) said on Wednesday it was exploring the divestiture of its stake in an animal health venture, or selling a similar unit at Schering-Plough Corp (SGP.N) as part of the planned merger of two pharmaceutical companies.

“We are exploring the opportunities open to us by evaluating the potential for divesting Schering-Plough’s animal health business or Merck’s interest in Merial,” Merck spokeswoman Amy Rose said. “There have not been any decisions made at this point and it would be premature to speculate on the eventual outcome.”

Merck is a partner in the Merial joint venture with French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis SA (SASY.PA), which has said it is interested in boosting its presence in animal health.

Merial’s products include Frontline flea and tick treatments for dogs and Ivomec, a medication used to kill parasites in livestock.

In March, when the planned $41 billion merger of Merck and Schering was announced, Merck Chief Executive Richard Clark told analysts and investors some animal-health assets might be sold.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Merck had started contacting potential buyers of animal health assets that might be sold.

Still, the combined company wants to keep some presence in animal health.

“These are strong and valuable businesses and animal health is an area in which we will continue to operate,” Rose added.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York, writing by Jessica Hall; Editing by Andre Grenon)