Sanofi-Aventis has all but wrapped up its 1.8 billion euro acquisition of Czech generics drugmaker Zentiva.

The French drugmaker has confirmed that following the expiry of 1,150 crowns per share offer on February 20, it now holds 94% of the Prague-based group’s share capital, over the 90% mark needed to force a squeeze-out of minority stakeholders. Sanofi already had a 24.9% stake in the firm.

The battle for control of Zentiva has been a long one. Sanofi first made an offer of 1,050 Czech crowns per share for firm in July, but then upped the bid to 1,150 crowns after that was rejected. This was accepted by the Zentiva board but the deal faced opposition from financial group and shareholder PPF, in tandem with Italian insurance group Generali, which had had a 950 crowns offer rejected by Zentiva in June 2006.

PPF, Zentiva’s second-largest shareholder, threatened to sue the latter’s board in an Amsterdam court but then relented and it has now accepted Sanofi’s offer, as has another major stockholder, the Czech investment group J&T.

The deal will make Sanofi the 11th-largest generic drugmaker, based on pro forma 2008 sales, and it is unlikely to be the Paris-headquartered firm’s last foray into the market. Chief executive Chris Viehbacher said that the Zentiva deal “is a typical example of the kind of acquisition that I want our company to make, as part of our efforts to diversify and strengthen our business in areas where there are attractive growth opportunities".

He added that the purchase “is another step towards our ambition to become a global healthcare leader”. Sanofi said that it intends for Zentiva to become a platform for further growth in the central and eastern European markets, Turkey and Russia.

Intanza flu jab approved in EU
Additionally, the French firm's Sanofi Pasteur unit said that it has received marketing authorisation from the European Commission to sell Intanza/IDflu, the first approved intradermal (ID) microinjection influenza vaccine.

The needle used to administer the vaccine is ten times smaller (1.5mm) than those used for the traditional intramuscular route, the firm noted, adding that the jab has been approved for seasonal influenza in adults. Wayne Pisano, chief executive of Sanofi Pasteur, said that this is the first major market license for Intanza/ IDflu "and a key step towards recognition of the ID route as a promising alternative for influenza vaccine administration".

Sanofi also noted that it has won US approval to market Apidra Solostar, a prefilled disposable pen containing Apidra (insulin glulisine) which is indicated to improve glycaemic control in adults and children with type 1 diabetes or adults with type 2 diabetes.

Regenerative medicine link-up with Salk
In a busy week, Sanofi also said it is setting up a strategic alliance with the USA’s Salk Institute for Biological Studies that will focus on regenerative medicine.

Sanofi will provide funding for the La Jolla,California-based institute’s stem cell facility for up to five years and “flexible financial support” to individual scientists. Marc Cluzel, head of Sanofi’s R&D operations, said the alliance “will significantly enrich our research activities in the field of regenerative medicine”.