Germany’s PHW Said to Weigh Sale of Animal-Health Unit

PHW Group, Germany’s biggest poultry breeder and owner of the Wiesenhof food brand, is considering a sale of its Lohmann Animal Health GmbH business, according to people familiar with the process.

The family-owned company hired Commerzbank AG to manage a potential disposal of avian-vaccine and feed-additive maker Lohmann Animal Health, based in Cuxhaven, in the second half, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plan is private. PHW is valuing the business at about 500 million euros ($668 million), one of the people said.

The sale of the unit would allow PHW to focus on its animal nutrition unit and Wiesenhof poultry food business, which accounts for almost every second chicken slaughtered in Germany, according to its website. Lohmann Animal Health’s sales rose 4.9 percent to 255.7 million euros in fiscal 2012, boosted by demand for its offerings, such as the world’s first oral vaccine against chicken infectious anaemia.

PHW declined to comment on market speculation, its outside public-relations firm Engel & Zimmermann said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. Commerzbank also declined to comment.

Lohmann Animal Health, which has more than 500 employees in over 30 countries, may attract drugmakers, private-equity firms and chemical companies.

Drugmakers’ Expansion

While Pfizer Inc. opted to spin off its animal-health division, other drugmakers including Switzerland’s Novartis AG and Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly & Co. are looking to make acquisitions to expand their offerings for animals.

Eli Lilly Chief Executive Officer John Lechleiter said July 24 that his company will be “aggressive” in building a multi-billion-dollar operation in this segment. Novartis Chairman Joerg Reinhardt said Aug. 13 that a $10 billion purchase is possible as the drugmaker reviews its business, including units focused on animal health and vaccines.

Minneapolis-based chemical company Cargill Inc. acquired animal-nutrition supplier Provimi for about $2 billion in 2011 from Permira Advisers LLP. Germany’s Evonik Industries AG is making amino acids used in animal feed. Montagu Private Equity purchased the animal-health unit of LEO Pharma A/S of Denmark.