Pfizer Inc. says it may sell its veterinary medicine operations, which employ 700 in downtown Kalamazoo and more in the Kalamazoo County suburbs of Portage and Richland Township.

Company officials said, however, that any effect from Thursday’s announcement that Pfizer is “exploring strategic alternatives” for its Animal Health and Nutrition businesses would be at least a year or two away.

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Combined, the two business units had sales of $5.5 billion in 2010. Animal health accounted for $3.6 billion, nutrition $1.9 billion.

Pfizer’s animal health research and development business is based in a downtown Kalamazoo building with 700 employees. The business overall is based in Madison, N.J. Pfizer also operates a test farm in Richland Township and manufactures some of its animal health products at its largest manufacturing plant, in Portage.

Pfizer said it made the decision “based on its recent business portfolio review to determine the optimal mix of businesses for maximizing shareholder value”

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And Pfizer said it “is considering options that may include, among others, a full or partial separation of each of these businesses from Pfizer through a spin-off, sale or other

Pfizer president and CEO Ian Read said in a statement that “both Animal Health and Nutrition are strong businesses with attractive customer bases and solid fundamentals, but distinct enough from our core businesses that their value may be best maximized outside the company. In exploring these alternatives, we can determine what options will best drive their future growth opportunities and expansion, and enable shareholders to potentially realize higher value for these businesses.”

Pfizer Animal Health is a world leader in the discovery, development, manufacture and commercialization of products, including vaccines, medicines, diagnostics and genetic tests, to prevent and treat disease in livestock and companion animals.

Pfizer Nutrition is a leader in infant and pediatric nutrition, providing quality formulas and nutritional products for infants and children up to seven years old.

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Pfizer said it has engaged J.P. Morgan in connection with the evaluation of strategic alternatives for its Animal Health business and Morgan Stanley and Centerview Partners’ advisory business in connection with the evaluation of strategic alternatives for its Nutrition business. Pfizer said it expects to complete any transactions that may result from these evaluations in 12 to up to 24 months, and does not anticipate making any further announcements regarding strategic alternatives for Animal Health and Nutrition until sometime in 2012.