Pfizer has remained coy on reports that it does plan to sell its infant nutrition business in an auction that may fetch as much as US$10.5bn.

The US company said earlier this month that it was mulling whether to offload its infant nutrition and pet health businesses.

Pfizer revealed it was considering “a full or partial separation of the businesses though a spin-off, sale or other transaction”.

However, Bloomberg reported yesterday (28 July) that Pfizer plans to start the sale process on its infant nutrition business in September by sending out information to potential bidders.

Nevertheless, a Pfizer spokesperson told just-food today (29 July) that the reports were just “rumours”. The spokesperson insisted the company was still evaluating its options and that a decision has not yet been made.

Citing unnamed sources, Bloomberg reported that, Nestle, Danone and Abbott have spoken to financial advisers about the business and are likely to bid. According to the sources, Mead Johnson and Unilever may also examine offers.

The infant nutrition business generated some US$1.9bn in revenue during 2010, with its presence focused throughout Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America.

Pfizer is looking to dispose of the business to focus on its “established products”, saying the pharmaceutical industry’s fastest growing sectors are in the emerging markets, and within those markets, the fastest-growing segment is off-patent medicines and their generic equivalents.

MF Global analyst Andy Smith said earlier this month that a sale would likely lead to a “bidding war” for the unit, suggesting that Nestle, Danone and HJ Heinz would be likely to be “at the forefront” of the bidding.

Nestle declined to comment on the rumours.