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Novartis sheds remains of food business

The Isostar energy drink is the best known brand of Novartis' Nutrition & Santé unit.

(Novartis)

Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis has completed the sale of its remaining dietary food business, which includes the Isostar sports drink brand.

The company said on Monday it had agreed to sell its Nutrition & Santé unit to private equity group ABN Amro Capital France for €220 million (SFr340 million).

The deal is on a cash and debt-free basis and will close in the first quarter of 2006, subject to regulatory approval.

The sale had long been mooted after Novartis said the unit, which makes slimming products such as Gerlinea and Pesoforma and Isostar sports drinks, was no longer a core business.

Nutrition & Santé was included within the Medical Nutrition business.

"We are committed to focusing on our pharmaceuticals and healthcare businesses," said Paul Choffat, CEO of Novartis Consumer Health. "This transaction provides Nutrition & Santé and its employees with a new shareholder who will focus on the business."

Leftovers

Novartis added the sale allowed it to realise the value of its investments in Nutrition & Santé.

The unit holds the remaining assets of its health and functional food business, the rest of which were sold to Associated British Foods in November 2002. The sale included Swiss icon Ovomaltine as well as the Caotina chocolate drink brand.

Headquartered near Toulouse in France, the Nutrition & Santé unit produces a range of products sold through supermarkets, health-food stores and gyms.

It reported sales of €245 million euros and operating income of €21 million for the year to the end of September.

ABN Amro said it would "partner with the management team" in order "to expand in the dietary food business via organic and external growth".

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Novartis first-half results 2005:
Net profit: $3.1 billion (SFr4.09 billion) (+12%).
Net Sales: $15.1 billion (+11%).
Operating income: $3.5 billion.

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In brief

Novartis, based in Basel, is one of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies.

It was created by the merger of Swiss companies Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz in 1996.

As part of the merger, it took over Sandoz' Wander unit, which produced Ovomaltine and Isostar.

Novartis decided to pull out of the functional foods business in 2002, selling part of it to Associated British Foods in November that year.

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