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J&J to sell slow-growing diagnostics unit to Carlyle

(Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson said it would sell its ortho clinical diagnostics unit to private equity firm Carlyle Group for $4.15 billion, shedding a slow-growing business to focus on more lucrative products.

The deal is Carlyle's biggest healthcare investment since it bought nursing, hospice and home health services provider Manor Care Inc in 2007.

"Now with this divestiture nearly complete, we're inclined to believe (J&J) will continue to strategically prune its business segments and use the proceeds to return cash to shareholders or invest in higher-growth assets," Leerink analyst Danielle Antalffy wrote in a note.

J&J's diabetes business, which includes LifeScan blood glucose meters and Animas pumps, could be the next business to go, given slowing sales growth and weak margins, Antalffy said.

J&J shares were up marginally at $95.01 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. Carlyle shares were up slightly at $36.97.

Reuters reported in December that Carlyle was nearing a deal to buy the business, trumping a joint bid from Blackstone Group and Danaher Corp .

J&J said in January 2013 that it was considering a sale or spinoff of the unit, whose products include equipment for laboratory diagnostics and blood transfusion screening.

J&J's businesses typically rank first or second in their markets. The diagnostics unit was ranked fifth among competitors based on sales, according to Thomson Reuters data.

"This transaction is a result of our disciplined approach to portfolio management in order to achieve the greatest value for Johnson & Johnson," Chief Executive Alex Gorsky said in a statement.

Drugmakers around the world are getting rid of non-core businesses as a way to cut costs in the face of pricing and reimbursement pressures from cash-strapped governments.

Carlyle, which was advised by Barclays and Goldman Sachs, said it had secured committed debt financing from Barclays, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, UBS and Nomura. Latham & Watkins LLP acted as legal advisers to the firm.

J&J's advisers included J.P. Morgan, the company said.

The companies said the deal was expected to close in mid 2014.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer in New York and Esha Dey and Vrinda Manocha in Bangalore; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Ted Kerr)

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