Aventis agrees £300m sale of cardiovascular drugs to GSK

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The Independent Online

GlaxoSmithKline, the UK's biggest drugmaker, plans to spend €453m (£300m) on two new drugs - assuming the takeover of Aventis by Sanofi-Synthélabo goes ahead.

GlaxoSmithKline, the UK's biggest drugmaker, plans to spend €453m (£300m) on two new drugs - assuming the takeover of Aventis by Sanofi-Synthélabo goes ahead.

Sanofi has agreed to sell two blood-thinning drugs to satisfy regulatory concerns, should Aventis succumb to its €46bn hostile approach.

GSK said it wanted the drugs - called Fraxiparine and Arixtra - to help overcome what is currently a weak showing in cardiovascular medicine.

Fraxiparine is used to prevent blood clots, especially in people with heart conditions or at risk from deep vein thrombosis. It had sales of €319m in 2003. The drug has been on sale in Europe since 1986, but is not available in the US, the world's most lucrative pharmaceuticals market.

Arixtra, a second injectable blood thinner, currently has annual sales of €24m but Sanofi is conducting trials to extend its use into new areas. It is currently used to prevent blood clotting during certain types of hip and knee surgery.

If the deal goes ahead, GSK will take over trials on new indications for Arixtra, as well as taking on the factory in Notre-Dame-de-Bondeville in Normandy, France, which makes the two drugs. The facility employs 650 people.

GSK has been searching for products to fill a gap in its pipeline of new drugs since several of its biggest sellers - including the anti-depressants Seroxat and Wellbutrin - have lost patent protection and been exposed to ferocious price competition. Although the company has impressed investors in the City with the size of its pipeline of drugs under development, few will reach the market until late in the decade.

Jean-Pierre Garnier, GSK's chief executive, issued a profit warning at the start of this year, describing 2004 as a "transition year" during which earnings would be flat. GSK shares have drifted down from 1390p in December last year to 1105p yesterday, down 2p on the day.

Sanofi is still the favourite to win control of Aventis, another French company, despite the emergence of Novartis of Switzerland as a potential white knight.

The French government has made it plain that it would like to see the creation of a national champion. Sanofi announced its intention to divest Fraxiparine and Arixtra when it launched its audacious takeover bid in January. Although it and Aventis have similar market valuations, Sanofi is significantly smaller by sales.

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