South Africa’s Aspen in talks to sell infant formula unit

Aspen Pharmacare is in talks to sell its global infant formula business, it said on Tuesday, as the South African drug maker seeks to cash in on growing demand for baby milk.

The business sells infant milk formula in the Asia-Pacific, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, and has a growing presence in the Middle East and China.

“Aspen is currently engaged in discussions regarding a possible divestment of its global infant nutritionals business,” the firm said in a statement.

Aspen declined to provide further details and Lactalis was not immediately available to comment.

Shares in Aspen, with operations in 50 countries, traded up after the announcement, rising 2.2 percent to 271.55 rand.

“It’s going to inject some cash into the balance sheet,” said Independent Securities trader Ryan Woods.

 

In January, Aspen said it would review the infant milk formula business with options including a sale to a strategic partner. The unit has factories in New Zealand, South Africa and Mexico.

Infant formula is seen as an attractive business, due to rising incomes in emerging markets and population growth. It is dominated by Nestle, Danone and Reckitt Benckiser, which acquired Mead Johnson of the United States last year.