The head of Sanofi-Aventis, Chris Viehbacher, has played down suggestions that a major merger is on the cards and instead plans to increase its geographical spread by snapping up more generic drug firms.

He told the Financial Times: “I have not taken anything off the table, but the bigger the acquisition, the harder it is to drive value.”

Unlike other big pharma firms, which have favoured licensing deals with generics producers, Sanofi-Aventis has been on the acquisition path over recent months, purchasing companies with operations in Brazil, Mexico, Eastern Europe and Turkey.