Pfizer selling Capsugel to KKR for $2.38 billion

By Lewis Krauskopf

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pfizer Inc <PFE.N> said it struck a deal to sell its Capsugel unit, the world's largest maker of hard capsules, to private equity firm KKR & Co <KKR.N> for nearly $2.38 billion.

Pfizer, which said in October it was exploring the sale of Capsugel, said it expects to make additional share repurchases this year as a result of the deal, beyond its previous plans for $5 billion in buybacks for 2011.

Pfizer shares rose 22 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $20.60 in premarket trading on Monday.

The deal with KKR comes as the world's largest drugmaker has indicated it is reviewing possible further divestitures under Ian Read, its new chief executive officer. Pfizer's initial decision to explore options for Capsugel came a few months before Read was named CEO.

"They're looking at ways to make the company smaller," said Jon LeCroy, an analyst with Hapoalim Securities. "The key for any company obviously is getting back to growth, and Pfizer is so big, it's almost impossible for them to do that."

Pfizer faces the loss later this year of exclusive rights to its huge-selling Lipitor cholesterol drug, which stands to hurt the company's sales and profits.

Capsugel had about $750 million in revenue last year and manufactured more than 180 billion hard capsules.

At 3.2 times sales, the deal price amounted to a "reasonable multiple" for a stable, low-growth business, according to JP Morgan pharmaceuticals analyst Chris Schott.

Financing for the deal is being led by UBS, Barclays and Deutsche Bank, said a source familiar with the situation. It was not immediately clear how much of the purchase price is being funded by debt and how much by equity.

In addition to hard gelatin capsules, Capsugel's business includes liquid, softgel, non-animal and fish gelatin capsules, for use in pharmaceutical products and dietary supplements.

Its customers have included Pfizer as well as outside companies in the pharmaceutical, consumer medicine and health and nutrition industries.

As a result of the sale, which is expected to be completed in the third quarter, Pfizer slightly lowered its revenue targets for this year and next year.

For 2011, it now projects revenue of $65.2 billion to $67.2 billion, down from $66 billion to $68.0 billion previously. It expects 2012 revenue of $62.2 billion to $64.7 billion, down from $63.0 billion to $65.5 billion previously. It maintained its other financial forecasts for 2011 and 2012.

Pfizer's financial advisers on the deal were Morgan Stanley & Co and Guggenheim Securities.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf additional reporting by Megan Davies; editing by John Wallace and Maureen Bavdek)