UPDATE 1-Novartis buys antibiotics business from GSK in generics push

(Writes through with details from GSK)

ZURICH, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis’ generics division is buying a GlaxoSmithKline antibiotics business that includes the brands Zinnat, Zinacef and Fortum for up to $500 million, the drugmakers said on Thursday.

Novartis’ Sandoz unit will pay GSK $350 million for the cephalosporin antibiotics business at the closing of the deal, which is expected in the second half of this year, plus a further $150 million upon hitting set milestones.

Britain’s GSK is splitting itself into two companies - one focusing on over-the-counter products and the other on prescription drugs and vaccines, seeking a leaner structure as it invests in newer medicines.

The cephalosporin class of antibiotics is widely used to treat various bacterial infections. The three brands that are part of Thursday's deal had combined sales of roughly $140 million in "relevant" markets last year and are now out of patent protection, GSK said. ( ]

Under the deal, Sandoz will be able to sell the brands in all markets except Australia, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Japan, Pakistan, and the United States, GSK said.

Other GSK antibiotic brands are not part of the sale to Sandoz, according the British company, which said it would also close its cephalosporins manufacturing operations once it has finished transferring production to Sandoz, expected in 2025.

Although GSK did not announce any job cuts related to the deal, it said all 170 roles in the Zinnat supply chain would be affected, adding that it would provide support to the employees. It did not provide further details. (Reporting by Michael Shields in Zurich, and Pushkala Aripaka and Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by John Revill and Pravin Char)