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A carousel of companies: Inside the industry consolidation of 1990-2000

With the animal health sector currently experiencing a temporary lull in major M&A deals, the recent company rankings have remained fairly stable. However, to understand today's industry landscape, a history of consolidation has to be reviewed. Editor Joseph Harvey dug up Animal Pharm's time capsule to inspect over 25 years of comings and goings. 

If you are new to the animal health industry, the names on the list of leading companies from 1990 may seem completely alien and unfamiliar.

However, those who have been in the industry longer will know these names all form the DNA of the sector's top firms today. Consolidation has been inescapable in animal health over the last two decades, rendering the list below – Animal Pharm's oldest industry rankings – an index of defunct, acquired, merged and renamed businesses.

More analysis

For more about the history of M&A in the animal health industry, read Animal Pharm's table of important deals from 1995 to 2015, as well as recent industry rankings analysis.

A new top 50 report will be published by Animal Pharm this year, featuring more in-depth analysis of the industry's companies.

Of the 20 firms at the top in 1990, only Bayer Animal Health and Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health remain under the same guises today. It is no surprise Dr George Gunn told Animal Pharm earlier this year: "Every company I've worked for doesn't exist anymore."

In 1990, the animal health market was worth only $9.9 billion globally. This is reflected in the size of the annual revenues at the time – there was not one firm with yearly sales in excess of $1bn, while only around $700 million separated the whole of top 20.

All the companies in the 1990 rankings, aside from BASF, were part of larger human pharmaceutical groups – something that can only be attributed to six companies in the most recent standings from fiscal 2016.

Many of these companies have been acquired, with their assets and brands now spread over several different portfolios among today's leaders.

It should also be noted the Animal Pharm rankings used to include several companies that only operate in the animal nutrition market. This is not the case anymore and firms featured in the top 20 have to record a portion of their revenues from pharmaceuticals, vaccines or diagnostics.

Animal health industry rankings in 1990


Sales in 1990 ($ million)

What happened next?

1. Hoffmann-La Roche


Hoffmann-La Roche was among the biggest companies in the animal health industry from the 1980s until its vitamin and fine chemicals business was acquired by DSM in 2003. It sold its medicated feed business to Alpharma in 2000.

2. Rhône-Poulenc


Became part of Aventis after merging with Hoechst in 1998.

3. Pitman-Moore (Imcera Group)


Changed name to Mallinckrodt in 1995 and then was bought by Schering-Plough in 1997.

4. MSD Agvet


Merged with Rhône Mérieux to create Merial in 1997.

5. SmithKline Beecham


Bought by Pfizer in 1994.

6. Bayer Animal Health


Is now one place higher in the rankings and is the fifth-largest animal health business.

7. Pfizer Animal Health


Now trading as Zoetis – the biggest animal health company – following a spin-out from Pfizer.



Sold its premix business to Nutreco in 2007 but retains many animal nutrition assets.

9. Hoechst


Became part of Aventis after merging with Rhône-Poulenc in 1998.

10. Elanco


Now the fourth-largest business in the animal health industry.

11. Ciba-Geigy


Became part of Novartis Animal Health following merger with Sandoz in 1996.

12. American Cyanamid


American Home Products (Wyeth) bought American Cyanamid in 1994. Wyeth merged with Pfizer in 2010.

13. Upjohn


Merged with Pharmacia in 1995. Acquired by Pfizer in 2003.

14. Solvay Animal Health


Acquired by American Home Products (the previous name of Wyeth) in 1997. Wyeth merged with Pfizer in 2010.

15. Sanofi


Formed Sanofi-Aventis in 2004 through a merger. Begun Merial as a joint venture with Merck and retained the animal health business via acquisition. Now part of Boehringer following a merger in 2017.

16. Fort Dodge


Became part of Pfizer in 2009.

17. Intervet (Akzo Nobel)


Was bought by Schering-Plough in 2007.

18. Schering-Plough


Bought by Merck in 2009.

19. Boehringer Ingelheim


Currently the second-biggest animal health firm globally.

20. Takeda


Takeda sold its feed additive and vitamin divisions to BASF in 2000 and 1999. It merged its animal health division with Schering-Plough in 2000.


Ten years later, only nine names from the 1990 table remained at the top of the rankings. However, there were three companies in the billionaire's club.

The 2000 list has more in common with recent standings than the rankings from 1990 – nine companies featured below also appear at the top of 2016's leader board.

Animal health industry rankings in 2000


Sales in 2000 ($ million)

What happened next?

1. Merial


Now part of Boehringer's animal health division.

2. Hoffmann-La Roche


Sold its vitamin and fine chemicals business to DSM in 2002. Then Alpharma purchased its medicated feed business in 2000.

3. Pfizer Animal Health


Now trading as Zoetis – the biggest animal health company – following a spin-out from Pfizer.

4. Intervet


Was bought by Schering-Plough in 2007. Now under Merck's ownership.

5. Bayer Animal Health


Sill operating under the same guise.

6. Fort Dodge


Bought by Pfizer in 2009.

7. Schering-Plough


Purchased by Merck in 2009.



Sold its premix business to Nutreco in 2007 but retains many animal nutrition assets.

9. Elanco


Still going strong in the industry's top five.

10. Novartis Animal Health


Acquired by Elanco in 2014.

11. Aventis


Became Sanofi-Aventis as part of a merger in 2004. Renamed Sanofi in 2011 and animal health business sold to Boehringer in 2017.

12. Degussa


Now part of Evonik.

13. Pharmacia


Merged with Upjohn in 1995. Acquired by Pfizer in 2003.

14. IDEXX Laboratories


Still the leading veterinary diagnostics company globally.

15. Alpharma


Bought by Pfizer in 2011.

16. Virbac


Now part of the industry's top 10 companies.

17. Boehringer Ingelheim


Is the second largest animal health firm globally after merger with Merial.

18. Ceva Santé Animale


Is now a $1bn business in the industry top 10.

19. Phibro Animal Health


Currently the tenth largest animal health business.

20. Vétoquinol


Has moved up to 13th in the industry rankings.

So, can the same turnover of companies be expected by the time the 2025 rankings are published? Possibly not. There are currently eight animal health firms with annual sales over $1bn, with other mid-sized firms growing rapidly.

Naturally, the animal health industry has hit an equilibrium whereby the biggest businesses are now of a size that makes the over-sized deals hard to execute.

It is hard to see any more deals being concocted amongst top 10 players, with leading firms dedicating M&A monies to bolt-on purchases. This means M&A is likely to come amongst players further down the standings – a trend highlighted by the recent coming together of Ecuphar and Animalcare to create a more competitive European player on the cusp of the top 30.

Animal Pharm predicts the leading names in the industry may be sticking around a little longer than their predecessors.


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