J&J shops U.S. feminine pads unit, wants to keep K-Y: sources

Johnson and Johnson is looking to sell most of its U.S. feminine hygiene business, as it seeks to exit low-growth areas, but wants to keep its K-Y brand, said three people familiar with the process.

The diversified healthcare giant, whose products range from prescription drugs and medical devices to baby shampoo and mouthwash, wants to unload its Stayfree and Carefree pads and o.b. tampons, said the people, who declined to be identified as the matter is not public.

A spokeswoman for J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, declined to comment.

Other big players in the U.S. feminine hygiene pads business are Procter & Gamble's Always brand and Kimberly-Clark's brand. But J&J's brands might be a better fit for private equity players, the sources said.

Swander Pace Capital, which operates a portfolio of niche consumer brands called Insight Pharmaceuticals, is a likely acquirer, the sources said, since the firm bought J&J's e.p.t pregnancy test business in 2011.

Another possible suitor might be Brynwood Partners, owner of Zest soaps and Soft & Dri deodorants, the sources said.

Swander Pace and Brynwood could not be reached for a comment.

J&J's women's health unit had global sales of $1.6 billion in 2012. The business is far more popular outside the United States, and generates 80 percent of its revenue abroad.

J&J has been looking to sell or spin off nonperforming assets, including its $2 billion clinical test business.

More broadly, drugmakers are shedding businesses and cutting costs due to overseas price controls and pressure on payments from insurers and the government. Pfizer Inc is spinning off its animal health products business, Zoetis, in an IPO this week.

(Reporting By Olivia Oran and Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by M.D. Golan)