Novartis announced today that it plans to divest its Nutrition & Sante division, which manufactures and sells dietary products such as functional foods, to private equity firm ABN AMRO Capital.

The Swiss drugmaker expects to make around 220 million euros from the transaction, which is expected to close in early 2006.

Nutrition & Sante represents the remainder of the assets of Novartis’ former Health and Functional Food business unit, which were not sold to Associated British Foods in November 2002.

Nutrition & Sante has products such as the Isostar energy drink and Gerble and Cereal health food brands, and was originally up for sale in 2002 along with the other food assets held by Novartis, as part of the group's strategy to focus on pharmaceuticals.

But after divesting the mainstream food and beverage business to ABF, the company said it would delay the planned sale of its health food and slimming and sports nutrition businesses due to a lack of attractive offers. Since then, it has been included within the Medical Nutrition business unit results.

Novartis is retaining its medical nutrition business, which was bolstered in 2003 by the purchase of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Mead Johnson unit, which makes enteral and oral nutrition products.

Nutrition & Sante reported sales of 245 million euros and operating income of 21 million euros for the 12 month period ended September 2005. It operates primarily in France, Spain/Portugal, Italy and the Benelux region.