Sanofi has 'pilot in charge' after shakeup

21st November 2014, Comments 0 comments

The temporary head of French drugmaker Sanofi sought to reaffirm the company's viability Thursday, confirming there was still a "pilot in charge" despite a sudden change in leadership.

- 'Taking our time' -

Sanofi, one of France's largest companies, fired its chief executive three weeks ago after a row over his management style, frightening investors and sending stocks plummeting.

Serge Weinberg, whom the firm appointed as a temporary replacement, sought to dispel investor doubts Thursday, presenting an "accelerated" launch of 18 new drugs and vaccines by 2020.

"There is a pilot in charge" Weinberg said during a meeting with investors on the group's portfolio of new products.

The meeting took place at the headquarters of Sanofi subsidiary Genzyme, a US biotechnology group in Cambridge, near Boston, Massachusetts.

"We're taking our time" in the search for a new leader," Weinberg told investors, in comments highly anticipated by markets.

Sanofi's former chief, Christopher Viehbacher, who holds dual Canadian and German nationality, had been chief executive since December 2008 but had recently become embroiled in a boardroom row.

Weinberg told reporters he had "no plans to remain" in the position, and that the search for a new CEO was focused on candidates outside the company.

He no longer heads the nominating committee.

Weinberg reaffirmed his support for company strategy in place since 2008, under the direction of Viehbacher.

"This strategy is still the same today and it is not expected to change," he said, calling Sanofi a "fully international" company.

"I'm focused on ensuring that our momentum is maintained and and our strategic priorities are strengthened," he added, nipping speculation of a downturn in the bud.

Viehbacher had been at the helm of a major shift in research and development for Sanofi, which often collaborates and partners with public research centers and innovative biotech companies such as US firms Regeneron and Alnylam.

The company promised its forthcoming launches would be "at an accelerated pace in 2014," and could potentially generate revenue of more than $37.6 billion during their first five years of sale, at steady exchange rates.

The products relate to a diverse array of maladies: a vaccine against dengue in 2015, and new treatments for cholesterol, multiple sclerosis and rare disorders, such as Gaucher disease.

Sanofi also expressed confidence in its diabetes division, with several new drugs, and predicted it would succeed in creating revenue that is "stable or slightly growing from 2015 to 2018" despite the US market's negative impact on sales of its star product Lantus, a diabetes drug with long-acting insulin.

Sanofi stock closed down 2.36 percent at 75.02 euros ($94.20) on the Paris stock exchange, which showed an overall loss of .75 percent.

© 2014 AFP

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