Is this move smarter than it seems?

Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT) outbid other drugmakers to purchase Solvay's pharmaceuticals business. The American drugmaker clearly saw an opportunity to get full control of cholesterol drugs Tricor and TriLipix, which the companies sold together, as well as a presence in the emerging markets.

Solvay's flu vaccine business, on the other hand, Abbott can live without. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company has put its newly acquired flu business up for auction. The unit could fetch over $600 million.

I liked the original purchase by Abbott because it decreased the company's reliance on its anti-inflammatory drug Humira, which has gotten a little out of control, making up 18% of total revenue last quarter. Selling off part of the acquisition, however, kind of goes back to that model.

Investors can only hope that this is a case of Abbott believing that it has better use for its capital. GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), Novartis (NYSE: NVS), AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN), sanofi-aventis (NYSE: SNY), or one of the other large flu vaccine companies may find Solvay's flu business more valuable than Abbott does because it can benefit from economies of scale. Then Abbott could redeploy the cash to buy something else that could bring in more income than the flu business would have.

Abbott acquired a few cancer drugs when it purchased Facet Biotech. A further push in that direction wouldn't be such a bad move. There aren't too many unpartnered cancer drugs out there, but Facet was partnered with Biogen Idec (Nasdaq: BIIB) on its lead drugs, so maybe acquiring half the rights to a drug isn't a big deal for Abbott.

Just like Gilead Sciences (Nasdaq: GILD) and its never-ending attempts at diversification, Abbott needs to continue its external growth to satisfy investors. Until the risk of relying on a few drugs is gone, shares of both companies will continue to have a lack-of-diversification discount applied to them.

Make your sale and future purchases wisely, Abbott; your investors are watching.

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Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool owns shares of GlaxoSmithKline and has a disclosure policy.