US conglomerate 3M has decided to sell off its global pharmaceuticals business to a group of health and private equity firms in a deal valuing the business at around $2.1 billion.

3M Pharmaceuticals was put up for sale in April after the group’s management decided the unit would fare better in the hands of a dedicated drug company. The company has retained its other healthcare businesses, which include medical devices and bandages.

At that time, analysts at Lehman Brothers estimated that the sale could bring in as much as $3.5 billion to 3M, assuming annual sales of the pharmaceuticals business of around $700 million.

Overall sales for 3M’s entire healthcare unit operations were a little under $4.4 billion last year.

The pharma businesses is being carved up according to geography, with Swedish specialty drugs group Meda AB buying 3M’s European drugmaking operations for $867 million and Graceway Pharmaceutical of the USA snapping up units in North and Latin America for $875 million.

In the third portion of the deal, Australian private equity firms Ironbridge Capital and Archer Capital are paying $349 million to acquire 3M’s pharma business in Asia-Pacific, Australia and South Africa.

The purchasers are acquiring regional marketing and intellectual property rights for 3M's branded pharmaceuticals, including Aldara (imiquimod) for genital warts, Minitran (nitroglycerine) for angina pectoris and cardiac arrhythmia drug Tambocor (flecainide acetate).

3M said its drug delivery systems division would also be retained and will serve as a source of supply to the acquiring companies for the products.

The transactions are scheduled to close in the fourth quarter. 3M said it would record a gain related to the transactions, and in addition, there would be various restructuring charges.