Reports: Sanofi snapping up Merial, Helvepharm

Sanofi-Aventis is one busy company. It has agreed to buy Swiss generics maker Helvepharm. It has forged a deal to take over Merial, the animal-health company it co-owns with Merck. And it's boosting its growth forecast for the year after the second quarter came in stronger than expected.

First, the deals. Reuters reports that Helvepharm owns about 5.4 percent of the Swiss market, and that it expects some $29.03 million in sales this year. That's not a huge company, but it adds to the several generics acquisitions Sanofi has made this year as it aims to grow its footprint in the business. Much bigger is its buyout of Merial, which has been rumored for weeks; sources tell Bloomberg that it's a done deal, with an announcement set for later this week. No word on price yet, but analysts say the 50 percent stake could be worth $2.8 billion.

"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," CEO Chris Viehbacher told reporters as the company announced Q2 earnings. He wouldn't comment on a deal for Merial, however.

Which brings us to results. Sales for the quarter jumped 11.2 percent to €7.44 billion, or 6.5 percent factoring out currency effects. Income leapt even more: 29.4 percent, or 17.2 percent ex-currency. Despite a small furor over Lantus safety, the diabetes drug helped fuel growth, with an increase in sales of 26 percent. Lovenox, Taxotere, and Plavix all posted increases as well. Now, the company says it expects adjusted EPS to grow 10 percent for the year.

- read the release from Sanofi (pdf)
- see the Bloomberg story
- check out the coverage from Reuters

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