Rumours of Pfizer, Sanofi mega-merger emerge

By Mike Nagle

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sanofi, Pharmaceutical industry, Sanofi-aventis, Pfizer

Rumours that Pfizer is looking into buying a large stake in
Sanofi-Aventis, which could be seen as a prelude to a full takeover
bid, has prompted a flurry of shareholder activity.

Sanofi shares jumped 3 per cent on the news, before settling back down to $43.72 (a rise of 1.6 per cent). Around 23 per cent of Sanofi is owned by Total and L'Oreal, and it is no secret that Total, at least, is looking to off-load its shares. The Chief Financial Officer of Total, Robert Castaigne, said in August that the company would sell its shares "progressively", adding to CEO Christophe de Margerie's comment in May that the sale would take place "probably in the short term". A spokesperson for Total confirmed to DrugResearcher.com that the company held a 13.13 per cent in Sanofi-Aventis as of the end of 2006, although he refused to comment on the Pfizer speculation, only saying that by the end of 2012, the company will have sold all of those shares. Meanwhile, L'Oreal, which owns a 10.5 per cent in Sanofi, said back in June that the sale of its shares in Sanofi were not imminent and a spokesperson for the company confirmed that this position has not changed - although unsurprisingly they also refused to comment on the rumours. The world's biggest pharma firm was rumoured to have approached Total about buying the shares four years ago but that was before Sanofi merged with Aventis, creating a company with a market capitalisation of around €86.4bn ($121.3bn); a mega merger price that would stretch even Pfizer's pockets. The two companies do have some pipeline overlap however, and both have also suffered recent setbacks: Sanofi had its obesity drug, Acomplia/Zimulti (rimonabant) rejected​ by an advisory committee at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and subsequently withdrew its New Drug Application (NDA); and Pfizer's share price was hit hard by the failure of torcetrapib in Phase III trials, and this year has cut jobs and closed facilites. With Sanofi rumoured to be interested in buying Bristol-Myers Squibb, this is not the first time Sanofi has been the subject of takeover speculation in the past week​, only this time the boot is on the other foot and it is Sanofi which could find itself the target of a takeover bid. Neither Sanofi nor Pfizer were willing to comment on the speculation.

Related topics: Preclinical Research, Sanofi

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