CINCINNATI: Unused to the role of a small fish in a big pond, the world's largest advertiser is seeking a way out of the pharmaceuticals business and has briefed Goldman Sachs to evaluate opportunities.

The exodus from pharma is in line with Procter & Gamble's declared policy of focussing investment and marketing resources on its higher-growth businesses.

The fmcg giant's healthcare division sells over-the-counter products such as heartburn treatment Prilosec, Pepto-Bismol and Vicks, while its pharmaceuticals business markets prescription drugs that focus on women's health and gastrointestinal and musculoskeletal problems.

Between them in 2008 the two units posted $14.6 billion (€11.39bn; £10.14bn) in sales and $2.5bn in net earnings. P&G said its pharmaceuticals unit accounts for global sales of more than $2bn.

Speaking to analysts in December, P&G chairman-ceo Alan G Lafley revealed that the company had stopped investing in new drug development, adding that he would consider divesting some of its key pharmaceuticals brands.

In the 1990s when P&G was investing bigtime in pharmaceuticals, the returns had been well above those from consumer products. "Today," said Lafley, "pharma companies trade at multiples at or below consumer products."

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff