Sanofi-Aventis agrees to snap up Merck's stake in Merial venture

FRENCH drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis is understood to have agreed to buy the stake it does not already own in the Merial animal healthcare business from its US partner Merck.<br /><br />The acquisition is set to be announced this week, two people familiar with the situation said. They did not disclose the price of the transaction, but analysts estimate that Merck&rsquo;s stake in the business is worth somewhere between $3bn and $5bn.<br /><br />At Sanofi&rsquo;s results news conference earlier yesterday chief executive Chris Viehbacher said Sanofi was interested in expanding its animal health business but declined to comment specifically on Merial.<br /><br />Viehbacher had already said in April he was open to buying Merck&rsquo;s part of Merial.