Nestle Purchase of Pfizer Unit Blocked in Mexico

Nestle SA’s acquisition of Pfizer Inc.’s infant-nutrition unit in Mexico was blocked by the nation’s antitrust agency, which said the deal would hurt consumers.

The transaction, part of an $11.9 billion deal to buy Pfizer’s worldwide nutrition business, would give Vevey, Switzerland-based Nestle market share of as much as 88 percent, depending on the type of baby formula, the agency said today in a statement. That would lead to price increases of as much as 11.5 percent, it said.

The setback for Nestle may force the company to seek a buyer such as Danone SA for some assets, said Jon Cox, head of Swiss research at Kepler Capital Markets in Zurich. Nestle and New York-based Pfizer can also file an appeal within 30 business days, the antitrust agency said.

“Danone is obviously very interested in those parts that can’t be part of the deal for regulatory reasons,” Cox said in an e-mail. “Nestle might be reluctant to sell to Danone as it is obviously a tough competitor in the segment on a global basis.”

Mexico is Nestle’s fifth-largest market by sales, trailing the U.S., France, Brazil and Germany, according to its 2011 annual report. Pfizer gets more than 80 percent of its nutrition revenue from emerging markets, the company’s 2011 annual report showed. Chinese authorities approved the infant-nutrition transaction earlier this month.

Joan Campion, a Pfizer spokeswoman, referred a request for comment to Nestle. Nestle’s press office didn’t immediately return an e-mailed request for comment. Agnes Berthet-d’Anthonay, a spokeswoman at Paris-based Danone, also didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail message.

Nestle fell 0.3 percent to 59.15 Swiss francs in Zurich. Pfizer rose 0.6 percent to $24.28 at the close in New York.

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