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French energy company Total to sell stake in drugmaker Sanofi Aventis

Total SA plans to sell its 13% stake in pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis, the French oil company's CEO told shareholders on Friday.

Total SA is one of Sanofi-Aventis's largest shareholders, with a stake worth €12 billion ($16.18 billion). CEO Christophe de Margerie said that while the company doesn‘t want to disturb Sanofi‘s life too much, it will sell its stake „probably in the short term.” He made the comment at Total's annual shareholders‘ meeting in Paris. Speculation of a selloff of Total's stake in the drugmaker has swirled for weeks. Total's earnings for the Q1 fell 17%, suffering from lingering integration costs arising from the 2004 merger between Sanofi-Synthelabo and Aventis. Earlier this month, Sanofi-Aventis reported a 2.6% drop in Q1 profit, citing adverse currency movements, generic competition and a strong comparable quarter a year earlier.

Sanofi-Aventis shares fell 1% to €67.45 ($91.22) in midday trading while Total shares fell 0.7% to €54.85 ($74.18). Meanwhile, Total chairman Thierry Desmarest 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 UN 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. (oilweek.com)