Eli Lilly considering sale of China assets to raise cash

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 Eli Lilly and Co. is considering the sale of a portfolio of off-patent drugs in China as the pharmaceutical firm seeks to raise cash amid a push into higher-growth products, people familiar with the matter said.

Indianapolis-based Lilly is working with advisers to gauge interest in a selection of older drugs for antibiotics and central nervous system diseases in China, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. The portfolio could fetch $200 million to $300 million, the people said.

The assets might attract interest from other pharmaceutical companies in Asia, the people said. Deliberations are ongoing, and Lilly could still decide against a sale, they said. A spokesman for Lilly declined to comment.

Lilly has been refocusing its business to target more profitable areas such as oncology to boost growth. It listed its animal-health unit in a $1.7 billion initial public offering in September to focus on drugs for people. It’s also made acquisitions to expand in cancer therapies, including a $1.6 billion deal for ARMO BioSciences Inc. and a purchase of AurKa Pharma.

Other global drugmakers have also been trimming their portfolios of older drugs. This month, AstraZeneca Plc agreed to sell U.S. rights to the Synagis respiratory medicine to Sweden’s Sobi for at least $1.5 billion. Pfizer Inc. is reviewing options including a sale of its women’s health assets, which could fetch about $2 billion, people familiar with the matter have said.

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