French Pharmaceutical Sanofi to Buy Merial Stake from Merck

The French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi-Aventis, has agreed to buy Merck’s (NYSE:MRK) stake in their Merial (a co. that offers products to enhance the well-being and performance of a variety of animals) animal-health venture, to help it weather the threat the french drugmaker faces from generic competition in coming years to its best-selling drug, two people familiar with the situation told Bloomberg News Wednesday, without disclosing the price of the transaction.

Sanofi and Merck each own 50% a piece of Merial, which had sales of more than $2.6 billion in fiscal 2008.

The acquisition is set to be announced this week, which may be worth nearly $3 billion, Bloomberg said, citing an analyst at Raymond James in Paris.

At Sanofi’s results news conference earlier on Wednesday Chief Executive Chris Viehbacher, who has only eight months in the job, said that Sanofi was interested in expanding its animal health business but refused to provide any specifics on Merial.

“Animal health is a very interesting business, and if there is an opportunity for us to be involved to a greater degree, we would clearly welcome that,” Viehbacher told reporters today in Paris as the company announced earnings. [Bloomberg]

Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck is selling its animal-health assets after regulators said its purchase of global science-centered healthcare company  Schering Plough (NYSE:SGP), would make it too dominant in the market, Bloomberg news service said.

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