Abbott Labs nears 4.4bn pharma deal

Belgium drugs conglomerate Solvay is believed to be close to a &euro;4.8bn (&pound;4.4bn) deal with US firm Abbott Laboratories.<br /><br />Solvay put its pharmaceuticals business up for sale two months ago in a bid to raise cash for acquisitions in its chemicals portfolio.<br /><br />Swiss drugmaker Nycomed had previously made an offer between &euro;4bn and &euro;5bn for Solvay&rsquo;s pharma division, which if raised could be the beginning of a bid battle.<br /><br />Solvay&rsquo;s sell-off follows in the footsteps of&nbsp; drug-chemical hybrid peer Akzo Nobel, which&nbsp; sold its drugs unit Organon for &euro;11bn and is now reaping significant synergies as part of its restructuring following a buyout of Imperial Chemical Industries &ndash; a deal which made it the world&rsquo;s largest paint maker.<br /><br />Analysts said that the drug business had limited prospects but had served the company well through the downturn, and that Solvay would look for a similarly stable business to buy in chemicals, possibly metals and specialty maker Umicore.<br /><br />Matrix analyst Navid Malik said: &ldquo;Both Nycomed and Abott want to bulk up their pharmaceuticals offering. And this is a quick way to do it.&nbsp; Pharma valuations are still very low and when there is a state of flux the options are to either sell up or buy.&rdquo;<br /><br />Malik added that a deal would spark a wave of bolt-on acquisitions and mid-market mergers.