Danone Said in Talks to Sell Its Medical Unit to Hospira

Danone, the French consumer products maker, is in talks with Hospira Inc. as a potential buyer for a medical nutrition unit, a person familiar with the matter said.

The companies continue to negotiate a deal for the unit, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Bloomberg News, citing people familiar with the situation, reported the unit was for sale in May and valued at more than 3 billion euros ($4 billion). Paris-based Danone had also talked to Vevey, Switzerland-based Nestle SA and Bad Homburg, Germany-based Fresenius SE, Bloomberg reported.

Exiting the business would help Danone, the world’s largest yogurt producer, focus on its food and consumer brands. Hospira, a Lake Forest, Illinois-based maker of injectable drugs, appears to be the most likely buyer, the person said. The Hospira talks were reported yesterday by the Financial Times on its website.

Daniel Rosenberg, spokesman for Hospira, didn’t respond to a call and e-mailed request for comment. Calls to Danone also weren’t immediately returned.

Sales at the Danone unit, whose products include Fortimel to counter malnutrition and Neocate, a hypoallergenic product for children, rose 5.2 percent in the first quarter on a like-for-like basis to 328 million euros. Revenue at the division was about 1.3 billion euros for all of last year, representing about 6.3 percent of the group total.

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