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German Economy Minister Meets Novartis Chief

Wolfgang Clement, Germany's minister for labor and the economy, has met with the head of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis, Daniel Vasella, as the company aims to takeover its Franco-German peer Aventis. A ministry spokesman said on Thursday that the two had met, but refused to give any details. Novartis said earlier Thursday it had accepted an offer by Aventis for merger talks that could lead to the creation o the world's second-largest drugs maker behind U.S. giant Pfizer. Over the past several months, Aventis has been fighting a hostile takeover bid by the French firm Sanofi-Synthelabo. Clement has previously expressed concern that Sanofi's acquisition of Aventis could result in possible job cuts in Germany, where the company also manufacturers some of its products. The French government has indicated it prefers a deal with Sanofi-Sythelabo over one with Novartis. Aventis, which employs some 69,000 people, was formed in the merger of German chemicals giant Hoechst and the French pharmaceuticals group Rhone-Poulenc in 1999.

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