Abbott directors approve AbbVie split

Abbott Laboratories said its board of directors has approved a plan to spin off its pharmaceutical business into a separate company named AbbVie Inc.

The North Chicago, Ill., company also on Wednesday said that a special dividend will complete the separation of the business. Abbott shareholders will receive one share of AbbVie common stock for every share of Abbott they hold.

It will be paid Jan. 1 to Abbott shareholders as of Dec. 12. AbbVie stock is expected to start trading Jan. 2 on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "ABBV," while Abbott shares will keep the "ABT" symbol.

AbbVie will focus solely on branded drugs, including top-seller Humira, an anti-inflammatory. The split is meant to free Abbott from the risks and obligations of developing pharmaceutical drugs, leaving it with a more predictable business built around nutritional formula, generic drugs and heart stents.

Abbott shares added 33 cents to $64.90 in premarket trading Thursday.