Bayer no comment on report on Aventis Behring deal

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German drug company Bayer AG declined to comment on Friday on a report it planned to buy a stake in blood-plasma maker Aventis Behring, a unit of Franco-German Aventis SA.

Der Spiegel magazine reported in a summary of an article to appear on Saturday that the two sides were ready to sign a letter of intent, although a full takeover was not on the cards.

Aventis Behring had sales of 1.15 billion euros ($1.02 billion) last year compared with 22.3 billion euros for the entire Aventis group.

Aventis Behring, a leading player in the $5.8 billion global plasma and recombinant products business, makes coagulation therapies to treat haemophilia and wound-healing agents used during surgery. Bayer, Germany's largest drugs group, has repeatedly said it is seeking partners for its healthcare division, which had sales of 10 billion euros last year.

Bayer has been urged by investors for years to separate its traditionally higher-margin drugs unit from divisions such as chemicals and polymers, or find a top-flight pharmaceuticals partner for healthcare. However, the company wants to keep majority ownership of healthcare and said this month it was in talks with possible partners.

Bayer has said an ideal partner would have a good position in the United States, fit well with Bayer's portfolio and be small enough for Bayer to maintain management control. Pressure to find a partner heightened after the August withdrawal of cholesterol drug Baycol, which was linked with 52 deaths around the world and will cost the company some 800 million euros in operating earnings this year.

At 0930 GMT, Bayer shares were up 0.42% at 35.80 euros, compared with a 0.7% rise on the DAX index. Aventis was up 0.57% at 79.35 euros, roughly in line with the DJ Stoxx pharmaceuticals index.

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