Total Looking To Sell Sanofi-Aventis Stake

PARIS (AP) - Total SA plans to sell its 13 percent stake in pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis, likely in the near future, the French oil company's CEO said Friday.

Christophe de Margerie said at Total's annual shareholders' meeting in Paris that while the company doesn't want to disturb Sanofi's life too much, it will sell its stake ''probably in the short-term.''

Total is one of Sanofi-Aventis' largest shareholders, and speculation of a sell off has swirled for weeks. Total's earnings for the first quarter of this year continued to suffer from lingering integration costs arising from the 2004 merger between Sanofi-Synthelabo and Aventis. Total reported a 17 percent drop in net profit.

Earlier this month, Sanofi-Aventis reported a 2.6 percent drop in first-quarter profit, citing adverse currency movements, generic competition and a strong comparable quarter a year earlier. Its shares fell 1 percent to $91.22 in Paris.

Meanwhile, Total Chairman Thierry Desmarest also reiterated Total's denial of wrongdoing in past dealings with Iran and Iraq.

French judges have filed preliminary charges against de Margerie in two different probes, one linked to the troubled U.N. "oil-for-food" program for Iraq and another related to Total's participation in the South Pars gas field in Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf.

''There was no misuse of company's funds, nor any embezzlement for personal gain,'' Desmarest said. ''We can only regret'' the legal actions taken by a French judge against de Margerie, Desmarest said.

Total shares fell 0.7 percent to $74.18.

 

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