Abbott Laboratories mulling sale of vaccine unit

The drug and medical device manufacturer Abbott Laboratories is considering selling its vaccine unit.

"We're exploring the option," Scott Stoffel, a spokesman for Abbott Laboratories, told the Chicago Daily Herald.

On Tuesday, Scott Stoffel, a spokesman for Abbott Laboratories, confirmed that the company is mulling the sale of a vaccine business acquired just months ago from the Belgian pharmaceutical company Solvay, the Associated Press reports. Abbot, based in North Chicago, acquired the Belgian company's pharmaceutical unit in February.

European pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis currently dominate flu vaccine production. Solvay's flu vaccine, Influvac, was regarded as a key product in Abbott's purchase of the company, giving them an angle in the growing vaccines market. Solvay vaccines sold more than $197 million last year, the Associated Press reports.

GlaxoSmithKline was formed in 2000 in a merger between GlaxoWellcome and SmithKline Beecham. Novartis was formed in 1996 in a merger between Swiss companies Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz Laboratories. Influvac is a sub-unit flu vaccine that has been on the market since the early 1980's.

The purchase of Solvay allowed Abbott access to emerging markets in Eastern Europe and Asia as well as new therapeutic areas, including vaccines and hormone therapies.

Abbott Laboratories' sale of Solvay is expected to be worth as much as $619 million.