3 February 2004
FRANKFURT – Executives of Franco-German drugs giant Aventis Tuesday vowed to resist a hostile takeover bid by a French rival and urged politicians to stay out of the battle.
Describing the takeover bid by Sanofi-Synthelabo as “a joke”, Heinz-Werner Meier, managing director of Aventis Pharma Germany, told a protest gathering of workers in Frankfurt, the takeover bid was a matter between two private companies.
Meier said the EUR 47.8-billion hostile takeover attempt by Sanofi-Synthelabo was neither in the interests of Aventis shareholders nor its workers.
“We do not want to be bought out, not even for a higher price,” he told more than 6,000 workers at the protest meeting.
Calling for national governments to stay out of the takeover battle, Meier said: “We can fight Sanofi on our own, but not the French government.”
Management board member Frank Douglas said: “We will continue to fight to remain independent or to have a good partner.”
The Aventis management is being supported by the Mining, Chemical and Energy Industrial Union, whose deputy chairman Werner Bischoff called on the company to develop a counter strategy.
“There should be no disputes with a nationalistic element,” he said.
Both leading German politicians and union officials are concerned a takeover could see big job losses in Germany.
Last week, German Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement warned against any takeover which would lead to one-sided job cuts in Germany.
Clement said Aventis was an excellent example of Franco-German cooperation which included Germany’s cherished co-determination system which gives workers a say in management.
With 9,000 top level jobs in Germany, Aventis was a pharmaceutical and research platform without parallel in the nation, he said.
Both the Aventis management and supervisory boards have rejected the bid by Sanofi which if successful would create Europe’s largest pharmaceuticals group and the third largest in the world.
The supervisory board is to meet again in Strasbourg Wednesday to discuss what steps to take.
Sanofi head Jean-Francois Dehecq has said the hostile bid was launched because a friendly merger would take too long.
Aventis was created in 1999 through the merger of Germany’s Hoechst with France’s Rhone-Poulenc.
Meanwhile a report in the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said Aventis was seeking to sell off small parts of its pharmaceuticals sector.
It quoted financial sources as saying it was negotiating with the US investment fund Blackstone a sales volume of up to EUR 1.5 billion.
According to the report, the negotiations had been underway for several weeks and had nothing to do with the hostile takeover bid by Sanofi-Synthelabo.
Nevertheless, Aventis might speed up the talks in order to raise cash quickly as well as to make itself less attractive for Sanofi, the report said.
Subject: German news