Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), the world’s largest drugmaker, plans to sell a minority stake in its animal health division in an initial stock sale by July 2013.

The group includes the former Embrex company, which operated facilities in North Carolina. Embrex, which had developed technology for inoculating chicken embryos against disease before they were hatched, was acquired by Pfizer in 2007.

The former Embrex labs in RTP and a former Embrex production facility in Laurinburg became part of Pfizer.

Speculation about a spin-off of the animal health group began last summer.

Pfizer Animal Health has more than 9,000 employees worldwide will become a stand-alone company called Zoetis.

The divested business may be valued between $15 billion and $20 billion, Catherine Arnold, an analyst with Credit Suisse in New York, said in an April note.

The divestiture of the animal health operations, which sold $4.18 billion in products for pets and livestock last year, is part of a three-pronged strategy by Chief Executive Officer Ian Read to refocus the company on developing new pharmaceuticals. He said in April that the unit would probably be shed in a combined initial public offering and share swap.

“Pfizer Animal Health is a dynamic business with strong fundamentals, an expanding and loyal direct customer base and a proven management team,” Read said today in the statement. “Our focus continues to be on taking the actions that will generate the greatest after-tax value for our shareholders.”

The new name for the company was suggested by the words zoo and zoology, according to the company statement.
It “best captures the company’s focus on partnership with veterinarians, livestock producers and companion animal owners,” said Juan Ramón Alaix, president of the division.

(Bloomberg news contributed to this report.)