And so to bed: Ovaltine heads for disposal

Drugs group plans pounds 3bn sell-off of non-core brands

SWISS drugs giant Novartis is considering a pounds 3bn plus sale of its food operations, which include Ovaltine and Isostar sports drinks as well as Gerber, the US number one in baby foods.

The brands have been earmarked as non-core activities, following the group's creation from the pounds 35bn merger between Swiss rivals Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy.

The deal, finally completed after US approval last week, creates the world's second-largest drugs company behind Britain's Glaxo Wellcome, and the big-gest group in crop protection and seeds. In the UK, it is also known for chemists' brands such as Lypsyl, Savlon and Nicotinell anti-smoking patches.

On the nutrition side, however, only clinical products - drip feedstuffs and supplements mainly to hospitals - are now seen as fitting in with future strategy. "Medical nutrition is core. In my view it fits very well," said chief executive Daniel Vasella. "Novartis will be first a healthcare company and second a healthcare company."

Nestle is one likely buyer for the brands, which also take in Wasa and Roland crispbreads and Gerble, Cereal, Milical and Eden slimming foods in Europe, but is understood not yet to have made an approach.

Heinz and Nutricia, the Dutch firm that owns Cow & Gate, would also be interested separately in Gerber, which dominates the US market but has failed to create a global presence.

Nutrition accounted for pounds 1.7bn of total sales of pounds 16bn last year and made profits of pounds 200m. Of that, pounds 1.5bn came from the consumer brands, which analysts value at more than pounds 3bn.

The group has already sold its construction chemicals arm since the merger was first announced in March. North American corn herbicides will also go in a $780m deal to satisfy the US authorities.

The sidelining of the consumer brands, however, marks a reversal of strategy, but one welcome to the market. "It's quite a turnaround and for the better. It would be a very good move," one analyst said.

Ovaltine was invented in 1904 by the Swiss scientist George Wander. In the 1930s, millions of British children joined the Ovalteenies club, tucking in to their own bedtime Radio Luxembourg programme on Sunday nights.

The malt drink - marketed as Ovomaltine on the continent - is also a big seller in South East Asia, but with its old-fashioned image has lost ground to the likes of Horlicks and Chocolate Break in the UK.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Reach Volunteering: Trustees with Finance, Fundraising and IT skills

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses reimbursable: Reach Volunteering: St...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests