Sanofi-aventis and Merck & Co. announced the companies have signed a definitive agreement under which Merck will sell its 50% interest in the companies' current animal health joint venture, Merial Limited, to Sanofi-aventis for US$4 billion. 

Formed in 1997, Merial is an animal health company that is a joint venture between Merck and Sanofi-aventis. When the transaction is complete, Sanofi-aventis will own 100% of Merial.


In addition to the Merial agreement, Merck, Sanofi-aventis and Schering-Plough announced the signing of a call option agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, following the closing of the Merck/Schering-Plough merger, Sanofi-aventis would have an option to combine the Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health business with Merial to form an animal health joint venture owned equally by the new Merck and Sanofi-aventis. 

The sale of Merck's interest in the Merial joint venture is subject to clearance by European antitrust authorities. Merck said it anticipates completing the transaction before its planned merger with Schering-Plough is finalized, which is expected to occur during the fourth quarter of 2009.