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Deals ‘R’ Us, says Sanofi chairman, pegging consumer, animal health for buys

December 10, 2014
Life sciences
Sanofi knows the pharma world is wondering what happens next, what with former CEO Chris Viehbacher riding off into the sunset. That’s why Chairman and acting CEO Serge Weinberg is giving interviews these days. And according to his latest with Handelsblatt, the French drugmaker is shopping for deals in some steady-but-slower fields.
 
The company won’t turn its back on high-risk-high-reward pharma R&D, Weinberg says. But it’s looking to grow in consumer health, veterinary drugs and vaccines–areas that are “perhaps less driven by innovation, but continuously grow and are more stable.”
 
That means internal growth, yes, but Sanofi would also like to make some buys, if the right opportunities present themselves, Weinberg told the German publication.
 
The question is where those opportunities might lie. Apparently, investors think Sanofi could be interested in Zoetis, the animal health business spun off by Pfizer last year. The company’s shares spiked Tuesday after Weinberg’s comments went public.
 
And Zoetis could well be bought: When activist investor Bill Ackman picked up a significant stake in the company last month, market-watchers speculated that Ackman and Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($VRX), which had teamed up on an Allergan buyout, might do the same with Zoetis. At the time, the company hinted that it could be sold if the price was right. Zoetis is “for sale every day” CFO Paul Herendeen said.
 
One business Sanofi doesn’t want to buy is Bayer’s diabetes device unit, which is said to be up for sale. Sanofi does see growth ahead in blood glucose monitoring–and in marrying blood sugar checks with drugs in an overall diabetes treatment strategy. “But I do not think we would be interested” in the Bayer unit, Weinberg said in the interview.
 
Sanofi also isn’t interested in selling off the portfolio of older products that former CEO Chris Viehbacher wanted to hive off, to the tune of $7 billion to $8 billion. The business delivers some steady cash flow, Weinberg pointed out, so why sell? “We do not think that would be a good idea,” he said.
 
As for replacing Viehbacher, Weinberg says Sanofi won’t go without a permanent CEO too much longer. Although recruiting a solid chief should take at least 6 months, expect quick action after that.
 
By Tracy Staton
 

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