Way cleared for Hoechst merger

AFTER A last-minute revision the German drugs group Hoechst agreed last night to buy Rhone-Poulenc of France in a share swap, a source close to the French company said. The new company, Aventis SA, will become the world's largest producer of drugs.

The agreement allows Hoechst shareholders to gain 53 per cent of Aventis. It was revised to win the backing of Kuwait Petroleum Corp (KPC), which owns 24.5 per cent of Hoechst. Hoechst said KPC management approved the plan, though its board has yet to clear it. The earlier plan envisaged a 50:50 venture. Hoechst will spin off its bulk chemicals unit Celanese and plastics division Ticona in October. The companies will swap shares in November and create the new Strasbourg-based company.