TRENTON, N.J. -- Following a rival's lead, Deerfield-based Baxter International Inc. said it's planning a breakup into two health care companies as it tries to boost innovation and profitability and reward shareholders.
Thursday's news could mark a recent trend as Wall Street banks look for lucrative business and urge giants such as Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson to break up into companies that can grow faster.
Baxter, known for its treatments for hemophilia and other blood disorders, will split into a biopharmaceutical company making those and some other medicines, and a medical products business. That one will sell the rest of Baxter's products, including anesthetics, injectable drugs, intravenous solutions and equipment to administer them.
Baxter shares rose 3.9 percent to close at $72.80 in New York trading.
Early last year, much-larger Abbott Laboratories spun off its branded drug business into the new company AbbVie. Abbott's remaining business sells nutritional formula, generic drugs, medical implants and diagnostics.
Which companies might follow suit is a hot question. Meanwhile, the mergers and acquisitions that have driven cost cutting and boosted profits for most top international drugmakers are losing allure due to very expensive valuations of small drug and biotech companies that often serve as surrogate research labs for big pharma.
Some stock analysts -- at investment banks that would stand to make millions for handling breakups and spinoffs -- have been pushing Pfizer to split into two or three companies. Pfizer, the biggest U.S.-based drugmaker, says that won't happen, at least for a couple of more years.
More recently, some analysts have asked J&J, which makes medical devices and diagnostic tests as well as prescription drugs and consumer health products, whether it would split up. The company, which has long touted its decentralized, heavily diversified business model, has said it's sticking with that successful strategy.
Other analysts are divided on whether Baxter's news will put more pressure on Johnson & Johnson, the world's biggest health products maker with annual revenue topping $71 billion and market capitalization of about $276 billion.
Steve Brozak of WBB Securities thinks J&J already is being pushed to split up.
"They are probably reviewing internal plans and plans being presented by every bank on Wall Street," Brozak said of J&J. "They can't be immune to all that."
"It may take a while," Brozak added. "It's not a question of if it happens, it's a question of how they make it happen."
Meanwhile, Judson Clark of Edward Jones said he doesn't see Baxter's move affecting J&J.
"The potential breakup of Pfizer down the road ... could put additional pressure on J&J," though, Clark said.
Baxter operates on a far smaller scale. Its pharmaceuticals business had 2013 revenue of about $6 billion, just over half the global sales of the No. 20 drugmaker. Besides treatments for the blood-clotting disorder hemophilia, it makes other blood-based therapies, including genetically engineered ones, and treatments for burns, shock and immune deficiencies.
That business will get a new name. Ludwig N. Hantson, Baxter's head of BioScience, will become CEO, while Baxter director Wayne T. Hockmeyer will serve as nonexecutive chairman.
The medical products business, which includes IV nutritional therapies, drug delivery systems and surgery products, had 2013 revenue of more than $9 billion. It's to keep the Baxter International name and integrate kidney dialysis product maker Gambro AB, recently acquired for $2.8 billion.
Baxter's current CEO and chairman, Robert L. Parkinson Jr., will keep those posts at the medical products company.
Both businesses will be headquartered in northern Illinois.
The separation, expected to wrap up by mid-2015, needs approval from Baxter's board.
Moody's Investors Service changed Baxter's ratings outlook from stable to negative, saying that the breakup would cause Baxter to lose scale, segment diversity and its higher-margin biopharmaceutical products.