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Last Updated: Friday, 5 May 2006, 07:01 GMT 08:01 UK
Profit boost for French drugmaker
Sanofi-Aventis scientist at work
Sanofi-Aventis is the world's third-largest drugs firm
French drugs giant Sanofi-Aventis has seen its profits jump by almost 54%, lifted by the sale of rights to larger US rival Pfizer.

The firm said net profits, adjusted for Sanofi's merger with Aventis in 2004, were 2.2bn euros ($2.4bn; 1.5bn) in the first three months of the year.

Sanofi-Aventis said Pfizer's purchase of the rights to its Exubera inhaled insulin product had boosted earnings.

Excluding such one-off gains, the French firm's net profits rose by 20%.

Sanofi-Aventis, which is the world's third-largest pharmaceutical company, said underlying sales during the first quarter rose by 4.9%.

That came despite US patent protection for some of the company's most successful drugs, including arthritis treatment Arava and diabetes drug Amaryl, expiring in the final three months for 2005.

In March this year, Sanofi-Aventis announced it had bought a 25% stake in Czech generic drugmaker Zentiva for 430m euros.

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