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French drug firm acquires Shantha

SANOFI-AVENTIS boosted its presence in emerging markets yesterday by agreeing to take control of unlisted Indian vaccines maker Shantha Biotechnics in a deal valuing the group at 550 million euros (US$781 million).

The French drug maker's vaccine division, Sanofi Pasteur, is to buy Merieux Alliance's French subsidiary ShanH, which owns 80 percent of Hyderabad-based Shantha, Sanofi said.

The acquisition of Shantha, which is expected to have sales of around US$90 million in the current fiscal year, is set to close before the end of the third quarter.

The move follows reports earlier this year in the India media that both Sanofi and British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline Plc were vying to acquire control of Shantha via Merieux Alliance.

Merieux Alliance bought 60 percent in the Indian biotechnology firm in 2006 and then raised its stake to 80 percent.

Shantha is a prized asset for international drug makers since it has capacity in the fast-growing vaccines sector and also offers a further way for Western companies to increase their footprint in emerging markets.

Both Sanofi and Glaxo have made growth in emerging markets a top priority for their businesses, as sales in the mature markets of the United States and Europe slow down.

Sanofi said it sees Shantha sales to grow sharply given the addition of Sanofi Pasteur's commercial resources and with the launch of Shantha's pipeline of new vaccines.

New products in development at Shantha include a rotavirus vaccine and a conjugated typhoid vaccine.

"Shantha provides Sanofi Pasteur with a portfolio of new vaccines in development which complement Sanofi Pasteur's current vaccines," said Sanofi group CEO Chris Viehbacher.


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