Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. is exploring a sale of its eye-surgery equipment business as part of a sweeping effort to unload assets and pare debt.

The eye-surgery business, which Valeant acquired with its purchase of Bausch & Lomb just three years ago, could fetch as much as $2.5 billion in a sale, according to people familiar with the matter. It's not clear who may be interested in the operation. The sales process is in an early stage and Valeant may still decide not to sell the business, some of the people said.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Valeant is inadvanced talks to sell its Salix Pharmaceuticals Ltd. stomach-drug business to Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. for $10 billion, including $8.5 billion in cash and the rest in royalties. Valeant acquired Salix just a year and a half ago, and the fact that it's selling it so soon shows the depths of the challenges the Canadian company faces amid questions about its accounting and business practices and whether the company has too much debt.

In response to that article, Valeant said it's "in discussions with third parties for various divestitures including but not limited to Salix."

Valeant hasn't broken out revenue for the eye-equipment business, which sells lasers, tools and other equipment used in surgeries for glaucoma, cataracts and other conditions.

Bausch & Lomb also sells contact lenses, solutions and prescription eye drugs, areas Valeant is eager to hold on to, according to people familiar with the matter.

As a result of aggressive deal-making under its former chief executive, Valeant has about $30 billion in debt, including $12 billion it owes to banks. New CEO Joseph Papa has been seeking to cut that debt and turn around a company that has been forced to abandon it prior strategy of acquisition-fueled growth.

Write to Dana Mattioli at dana.mattioli@wsj.com, Jonathan D. Rockoff at Jonathan.Rockoff@wsj.com and David Benoit at david.benoit@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 02, 2016 15:55 ET (19:55 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2016 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.