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Pfizer plans IPO for the dogs with Zoetis animal health unit

Pfizer plans IPO for the dogs with Zoetis animal health unit
Dr. Barry Baum, a veterinarian at Center Sinai Animal Hospital in West L.A., checks a female Maltese poodle mix. (Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

Pfizer Inc., the largest drug maker in the U.S., is planning to spin off its animal health unit into a separate company, named Zoetis, that will be partially owned by shareholders.

Let's deal with the name first. Zoetis derives from the root "zo," which means "pertaining to life" and is found in words such as "zoo" and "zoetic," Pfizer said.

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The name is starting to draw comparisons to Mondelez, Kraft Foods’ new name for its spinoff snacks unit.

Both are kind of hard to say. Zoetis is pronounced "zo-AY-tis," while Mondelez, which means "delicious world," is "mohn-da-LEEZ."

Both are headed for public debuts. On Thursday, Pfizer said it is preparing to file a registration statement to potentially offer a minority stake in Zoetis. The animal health company would split off by July 2013.

The business last year pulled in $4.2 billion in revenue selling medicines, diagnostics, vaccines and other products to veterinarians, livestock farmers and pet owners. More than 9,000 employees work for the unit.

With more than half of the nation's dogs and cats now overweight, Zoetis may find itself with a booming market in the next few years.

Pfizer said it would offer more details about the plan later this summer when it announces its second-quarter earnings. The company is trying to shed weight to focus on its pharmaceuticals business, selling its infant formula branch this spring to Nestle for $11.9 billion.

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