Abbott Laboratories is looking for a buyer for the influenza vaccines operation it got hold of following the acquisition of Solvay Pharmaceuticals earlier this year.

Company spokesman Scott Stoffel confirmed to PharmaTimes World News that the US major “is exploring the option to potentially sell the Solvay vaccines business”. The unit is expected to have sales of around 200 million euros this year, driven by the influenza vaccine Influvac.

Abbott completed its purchase of Solvay Pharma in February in a deal valued at around 5.2 billion euros. It gave the Illinois-headquartered firm access to the Belgian drugmaker’s fenofibrate franchise headed by the cholesterol drugs TriCor and TriLipix, Creon (a pancreatic enzyme replacement product) and its Androgel testosterone replacement therapy.

However, it appears that vaccines are not seen as core and analysts believe the unit could be worth around 500 million euros. Hedwig Kresse, head of vaccines & infectious diseases at Datamonitor, said the decision to sell “does not come as a surprise, as the company is a niche player without critical mass in the increasingly competitive seasonal flu vaccine market”.

She calims that “the most attractive selling point is Abbott’s established position in the lucrative Russian influenza vaccine market” through its alliance with Petrovax Pharm, “which could gain a potential buyer easy access to one of the key emerging markets for vaccines.”

Ms Kresse believes that “another interesting proposition is Abbott’s cell-based manufacturing technology”, although she adds that the company has lost its initial advantage in this segment through development delays and the approval of competitive products in this segment such as Novartis’ Optaflu. She went on to say that Datamonitor has “general doubts regarding the commercial potential” of cell-based seasonal flu treatments.

As for potential buyers, Ms Kresse singles out GlaxoSmithKline, which could “seize this opportunity to gain an entry route to the Russian market,” and AstraZeneca’s MedImmune unit, as a deal with Abbott could help the latter “achieve critical mass in the sector, which is dominated by large vaccine providers”.