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Sanofi slims down portfolio in preparation for Aventis acquisition

Published on 15/04/04 at 07:01pm

Sanofi-Synthelabo has agreed to sell two of its products to GlaxoSmithKline, as it seeks to avoid potential problems with competition authorities for its bid to buy Aventis.

The cash deal with GSK remains conditional on Sanofi's acquisition of Aventis, a transaction that has seen Aventis put up a stout defence against what it regards as an unwelcome offer.

If Sanofi is successful, it will sell GSK the injectable anti-thrombotic drugs Arixtra and Fraxiparine and their related assets, including a French manufacturing facility, for E453 million.

The facility located in Notre-Dame-de-Bondeville, France, employees 650 people and is predominantly used for manufacturing the two drugs. As part of the deal GSK would also assume responsibility for any ongoing clinical trials of Arixtra.

This should then allow Sanofi to keep Aventis' thrombotic market-leader Lovenox, which made sales of E1,659 million in 2003, an increase of 21% over the previous year.

In contrast Sanofi's own Arixtra, a synthetic factor Xa inhibitor, and Fraxiparine, a low molecular weight heparin, last year had worldwide sales of E24 million and E319 million respectively.

Presenting the takeover bid in January, Sanofi's top executives were particularly keen to stress to a Paris press conference their respect for Aventis and its lifecycle management of Lovenox.

Both Sanofi and GSK also have their eyes on future anti-thrombotic drugs - Sanofi with Idraparinux and GSK with Odiparcil, which it plans to launch in 2007.

According to analysts Datamonitor, GSK is actively looking to build its share of the global market for injectable anti-coagulant drugs and, if it can buy Arixtra and Fraxiparine, the deal will give it a valuable presence in the anti-thrombotic market and enhance its own product pipeline.

But the analysts said: "The company will face a tough marketing challenge to significantly boost revenues from these products.

"Fraxiparine is experiencing a slide in market share and faces patent losses in a number of markets, whilst Arixtra has so far failed to overcome doctors' preference for Lovenox."

Nevertheless the deal should help GSK with its plans for Odiparcil, a novel anti-clotting agent that is in phase II clinical trials for the prevention of thrombotic complications of cardiovascular disease.

GSK says that Odiparcil, which it developed in collaboration with the French company Fournier, could reduce the need for patient monitoring of both bleeding and the potential for liver malfunction that affect some patients on existing anti-thrombotics.

Meanwhile Sanofi's once-weekly treatment Idraparinux is currently in phase III clinical trials against oral anticoagulant treatments in a number of indications, including the prevention of vascular events associated with atrial fibrillation.

If Sanofi's designs on Aventis are successful it may also have to decide which colorectal cancer treatment, Aventis' Campto or its own Eloxatin, it wants to divest in order for the deal to be passed.

Sanofi announced its public offer for all the outstanding ordinary shares in Aventis on January 26, 2004. Despite the support of the French government for its bid, Sanofi has seen Aventis appeal to Novartis to step in with an offer of its own, though it has not yet done so.

If successful, Sanofi's E47 billion takeover bid for Aventis would create the world's third-biggest drug maker and Europe's number one pharma company.


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