L'Oreal has sold a major block of its shares in Sanofi-Aventis, thus reducing its stake in the French drugmaker to 8.7%.

The France-headquartered cosmetics giant has sold a 1.8% stake in Sanofi, saying that it completed the private placement “within a few hours.” With each share priced at 60.50 euros each, the transaction “will yield proceeds of approximately 1.5 billion euros”, L'Oreal noted in a statement.

L’Oreal said that the cash from the stock sale will be used to fund “development and strategic projects”, and the firm has stated keeping its stake in Sanofi does not fall into that category. It is a similar story at another major shareholder, the French oil giant Total, which earlier this year said that it too is looking to divest its stake. Christophe de Margerie, chief executive at Total, which has a 13.1% holding in Sanofi, told stockholders in May that a sale will take place in the short-term, though any divesture is unlikely to occur in one whole block.

US lawsuit filed over Acomplia
Meantime, Sanofi has been hit by a class-action lawsuit which alleges that the French drugmaker misled investors about prospects for its obesity drug Acomplia (rimonabant). Law firm Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins says it has commenced action on behalf of an institutional investor in the US Court for the Southern District of New York.

Acomplia, which Sanofi, and indeed most analysts, expected to be a blockbuster, was rejected unanimously by a US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel in June. The panel said that the benefits of the drug, which would have sold as Zimulti in the USA, do not outweigh the risk of psychiatric adverse effects, including suicide and seizures. The lawsuit claims that Sanofi’s statements about the drug “were materially false and misleading” because the company concealed data “concerning Zimulti’s propensity to cause depression”.