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Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. is considering selling its over-the-counter medicine unit for around ¥300 billion ($2.9 billion) to U.S. investment fund Blackstone Group Inc., sources close to the matter said Wednesday.

Talks on the sale of Takeda Consumer Healthcare Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Japanese pharmaceutical giant, are in the final stage and the two companies plan to settle the deal by the end of this month, the sources said.

Takeda aims to shed non-core businesses to reduce debts after its ¥6.2 trillion purchase of Irish drugmaker Shire PLC in January last year — the largest-ever Japanese acquisition of a foreign company.

It has also been focusing on developing cancer treatments and other advanced medication that can generate higher profitability.

Takeda Consumer Healthcare’s mainstay Alinamin vitamin tablets, which first went on sale in 1954, are known to have helped people suffering from malnutrition caused by postwar food shortages. The over-the-counter unit is also known for its Benza cold medicines in Japan.

The unit also posted sales of ¥64.1 billion and a net profit of ¥9.6 billion in the business year ended March 2019, which accounted for only about 3 percent of the total group sales of ¥2.1 trillion in that year.

The sources said Taisho Pharmaceutical Holdings Co., known for its Lipovitan energy drinks, also showed interest in buying the Takeda unit.

Takeda Consumer Healthcare was spun off from Takeda in 2016. Its Alinamin vitamin pills first went on sale in 1954 and Alinamin drink products in 1987, boosting Takeda’s growth.

Blackstone has invested in real estate businesses and other companies in Japan, including the acquisition of Ayumi Pharmaceutical Corp. last year.

In July, Takeda raised its net profit outlook for this business year through March 2021 by more than 50 percent to ¥92 billion, partly due to a review of future costs for a digestive disease drug candidate. The brightened outlook reflects a waiver by the European Commission in May that freed Takeda of some commitments it had made as part of its acquisition of Shire PLC.

Takeda also announced earlier this month that it would produce and sell in Japan a novel coronavirus vaccine being developed by U.S. biotechnology firm Novavax Inc.

Novavax, which is carrying out clinical trials for the vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, will license and transfer manufacturing technologies to Takeda, the two companies said.

Takeda, which will receive funding from the health ministry, anticipates capacity to produce over 250 million doses of the vaccine each year, and will secure regulatory approval in Japan for its supply.

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