Hoechst merger hits setback

PLANS to merge Hoechst and Rhone-Poulenc, the German and French pharmaceutical giants, were put on hold at the last minute yesterday pending the approval of Hoechst's largest shareholder, the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC). Rhone-Poulenc said its board had approved plans to accelerate a merger but later cancelled a scheduled press conference to explain the deal. The merger, which would create the world's biggest drug maker, would require both companies to sell most of their chemicals businesses during a downturn in the chemicals cycle.

In February KPC, which owns 24.5 per cent of Hoechst, said the merger did not serve its interests on the terms then suggested.