U.S. drugmaker Abbott Laboratories is planning to buy Solvay SA's pharmaceuticals unit for $6.6 billion (4.5 billion euros) in cash, with an announcement expected in the next 24 hours, a source familiar with the situation said on Sunday.

The deal between the companies, which co-market Tricor and TriLipix for controlling blood fats called triglycerides, would bolster Abbott's flagging prescription drug business by giving it a number of new medicines in late-stages of testing, including treatments for Parkinson's disease and other neurological conditions.

It would also give Abbott an entrance into the fast-growing business of vaccines.

Abbott has no vaccines and this is a growing global market, so this is definitely an element that is attracting Abbott, the source said, noting that Solvay's relatively small vaccines business is focused on influenza.

Solvay spokesman Erik De Leye declined to comment on a possible deal but said the Brussels-based company would issue a statement and hold a press conference on Monday to discuss the outcome of a recent strategic review.

An Abbott spokesman said the healthcare company can not comment on rumors.

A deal would also broaden Abbott's current presence in emerging markets, a mushrooming focus for healthcare companies that can no longer count on sizzling revenue growth from the mature U.S. market.

In addition to the 4.5 billion euros, Solvay could receive as much as another 300 million euros ($441.3 million) in milestone payments between 2011 and 2013, the source said.


Abbott, which has been on a deal-making spree this year, has said it aims to pursue small and mid-sized deals to further diversify itself and broaden its global reach.

It and larger rival Johnson & Johnson are already the most diversified of the large U.S. and European healthcare companies. Both continue to snap up more companies and products -- often at distressed prices due to the economic downturn.

Abbott's biggest deal so far this year was the $1.4 billion purchase of Advanced Medical Optics (AMO), announced in January, which made it the leader in Lasik laser vision surgery and the second-biggest player in cataract surgery lenses.

Abbott's profit fell in the second quarter, as generic competition for its Depakote anti-seizure drug overshadowed strong sales of its Humira arthritis treatment and its Xience heart stent.

It was the second tough consecutive quarter for suburban Chicago-based Abbott, whose sales momentum has faltered due to the strong dollar -- which crimps overseas sales -- and declining sales of other drugs facing strong competition.

Abbott's pharmaceutical sales fell 4.3 percent in the second quarter to $3.95 billion, while sales of its nutritionals business rose despite the strong dollar and revenue surged for its vascular products -- including Xience.

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson in New York and Aaron Gray-Block in Amsterdam; Editing by Diane Craft)