Philip Morris to consider stake sale in biggest pharma unit - WSJ

The company's logo is seen near the Philip Morris Izhora factory outside Saint Petersburg

(Reuters) -Marlboro maker Philip Morris International is considering selling a stake in Vectura, its biggest pharmaceutical unit, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

The tobacco company told the Journal that it was looking to bring on a partner to help operate and grow Vectura’s drug manufacturing outsourcing business, and could possibly sell a majority or a minority stake.

Other options include a licensing or royalties deal or a commercial partnership, the report added.

A Philip Morris spokesperson said the company did not have any comment to provide on the WSJ story.

Philip Morris bought UK-based Vectura, which makes asthma inhalers, for 1.1 billion pounds ($1.36 billion) two years ago, saying it was a part of its long-term plan to switch to being a "broader healthcare and wellness" company.

It also acquired nicotine gum maker Fertin Pharma for over $800 million and respiratory drug development company OtiTopic in the same year.

WSJ said that the tobacco giant has now had discussions with Deutsche Bank on a range of options to grow its healthcare and wellness division.

In the second quarter this year, Philip Morris booked a total impairment charge of $680 million for the segment, and expected to postpone its 2025 target to reach over $1 billion of net revenues due to issues with the unit.

"We aim to accelerate Vectura’s growth and will be exploring potential partnerships to enhance its contract development and manufacturing organization business," Chief Financial Officer Emmanuel Babeau had said in July, adding the company remained committed to developing the wellness healthcare segment.

($1 = 0.8076 pounds)

(Reporting by Chandni Shah and Kanjyik Ghosh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Varun H K)