Merck CEO talks up new Merial J.V.

Merck is doing the old wink-wink, nudge-nudge on joining its animal-health forces with Sanofi-Aventis, after merging with Schering-Plough, of course. CEO Dick Clark (photo) tells the Financial Times that the vet-drug business it will acquire along with Schering would be a good fit with Sanofi's now-wholly-owned Merial.

You'll recall that Merck sold its 50 percent share in Merial to joint-venture partner Sanofi to keep antitrust regulators happy as they review the Schering merger. Schering, of course, has its own big animal-health operation. And when Sanofi agreed to buy out Merck's Merial share, it also got an option to pay $9.25 billion to combine Merial and Schering's animal-health assets in a new joint venture with Merck.

Now, Clark is talking up the prospect. "If you look at the two animal health businesses in combination," he told the FT, "it would strengthen the ability to compete because there is a geographical fit, and a fit of production and companion animals." Plus, he said the "leadership of both companies are very aligned." In other words, they both think a combo is a good idea. Will Sanofi put $9.25 billion where Clark's mouth is? We'll just have to wait and see what happens once the Schering deal gets done.

- see the FT article