* Transaction values Shantha at 550 million euros
* Provides a platform for vaccines in emerging markets
* Sanofi takes control by buying Merieux Alliance's stake
* Deal follows reports Glaxo was also interested in Shantha
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LONDON, July 27 (Reuters) - Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA) boosted its presence in emerging markets on Monday by agreeing to take control of unlisted Indian vaccines maker Shantha Biotechnics in a deal valuing the group at 550 million euros ($781 million).
The French drugmaker's vaccine division, Sanofi Pasteur, is to buy Merieux Alliance's French subsidiary ShanH, which owns 80 percent of Hyderabad-based Shantha, Sanofi said in a statement.
The acquisition of Shantha, which is expected to have sales of around $90 million in the current fiscal year, is set to close before the end of the third quarter.
The move follows reports earlier this year in the India media that both Sanofi and British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK.L) were vying to acquire control of Shantha via Merieux Alliance.
Merieux Alliance bought a 60 percent holding in the Indian biotechnology firm in 2006 and later raised its holding to 80 percent.
Shantha is a prized asset for international drugmakers since it has capacity in the fast-growing vaccines sector and also offers a further way for Western companies to increase their footprint in emerging markets.
Both Sanofi and Glaxo have made growth in emerging markets a top priority for their businesses, as sales in the mature markets of the United States and Europe slow.
Sanofi said it expected Shantha sales to grow significantly given the addition of Sanofi Pasteur's commercial resources and with the launch of Shantha's pipeline of new vaccines.
New products in development at Shantha include a rotavirus vaccine, a conjugated typhoid vaccine and HPV vaccine.
"Shantha provides Sanofi Pasteur with a portfolio of new vaccines in development which complement Sanofi Pasteur's current vaccines, positioning the company to accelerate its growth in strategically important emerging markets," said Sanofi group Chief Executive Chris Viehbacher. ($1=.7043 Euro) (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Hans Peters)