Sanofi-Aventis has denied a report that its chief executive had proposed a major acquisition in the USA but major shareholders blocked any deal.

The report, in the French newspaper Les Echos, claimed that Sanofi boss Chris Viehbacher had been working on “an enormous acquisition” in the USA, that would have been “no doubt a hostile” operation. However, the article, which does not quote any sources, says that big backers of the Paris-headquartered company rejected the proposed deal, judging it to be “too risky”.

A Sanofi spokesman told Reuters that the company "formally denied" that a major acquisition project in the USA had been presented to the board. Indeed, Mr Viehbacher has frequently said that the firm is more interested in bolt-on acquisitions to supplement its existing vaccine, OTC and generics operations, as well as its pharmaceutical operations.

Staying with major shareholders, oil giant Total has cut its stake to 9.99% of the capital in Sanofi, while having 16.23% of the voting rights. Last November, Total’s chief financial officer Patrick de la Chevardiere said that "the objective is to have no more Sanofi shares on our balance sheet by 2012”.

Sanofi buys insulin plant from Pfizer
One deal that Sanofi has concluded this week is the 30 million euro purchase of a manufacturing plant in Diabel, Germany from Pfizer. The facility was originally built by the firms as part of their joint venture covering the inhaled insulin therapy Exubera.

Pfizer took overall control of the Diabel plant after buying Sanofi’s share in Exubera in 2006 for $1.3 billion, but the drug was pulled from the market at the end of 2007 due to disappointing sales. Earlier this year, the New York-based giant agreed to sell the facility to US company Mannkind, but Sanofi-Aventis has exercised its right to buy the unit.

Sanofi’s general manager in Germany, Martin Siewert, said that “the strong increase in demand for our insulins, and especially Lantus (insulin glargine), drives us to considerably extend our production capacities”. He added that in combining Diabel with existing plants, the company “will operate the largest insulin capacity in the world in Frankfurt”,