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Consumer goods makers among potential bidders for Pfizer's consumer biz

If Pfizer Inc. decides to sell its consumer health division, some of the world's largest consumer goods companies could make offers.

Analysts said the unit, which is responsible for products including over-the-counter painkiller Advil and lip balm ChapStick, could attract bids from Reckitt Benckiser Group plc and Nestlé SA. Citing unnamed sources, an Oct. 10 report by Reuters indicated that Procter & Gamble Co. might also be interested.

Pfizer said Oct. 10 that it would conduct a review of its consumer division, a move which could lead to a sale. In 2016, revenue at the unit totaled $3.4 billion, or about 6.4% of Pfizer's total sales, according to S&P Global Ratings.

Acquiring the business could be especially appealing to Reckitt, Jefferies analyst Martin Deboo wrote in an Oct. 11 research note. In 2016, the company indicated it would be interested in buying the division from Pfizer after reports indicated that Pfizer was pondering a sale.

"We think Pfizer Consumer, and particularly Advil, is an asset they covet," Deboo wrote.

While Reckitt may be one of the most likely companies to bid, the acquisition would come on the heels of the company's purchase of infant formula maker Mead Johnson. Reckitt closed its purchase of the Chicago-based company June 15 in a deal worth roughly $16.6 billion.

But buying another company so soon after Mead might not be an issue for Reckitt, Berenberg analyst Rosie Edwards wrote in an Oct. 10 research note, adding that the company can afford to take on more debt or fund the purchase by issuing shares or selling other divisions of the company.

Meanwhile, Edwards wrote that Nestlé is less likely to make a deal with Pfizer, having expressed more interest in expanding into nutrition products.

In July, executives at Procter & Gamble signaled that they would consider making acquisitions after divesting some brands, including beauty products, from their portfolio in recent years. CFO Jon Moeller told analysts during a presentation on the company's fiscal fourth-quarter and fiscal year 2017 results that the company was particularly interested in products that are "consumed daily or even more than one time per day."

S&P Global Ratings and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&P Global Inc.