French drugmaker Sanofi to step up push into China

Wed May 25, 2016 5:05am EDT
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By Matthias Blamont and Noëlle Mennella

PARIS (Reuters) - Sanofi SASY.PA will step up its push into China, its second biggest market after the United States, in the next five years as part of a wider expansion into emerging countries, where it sees a large part of its future growth.

The French drugmaker is under pressure to diversify geographically and expand in areas such as oncology as it faces declining sales of its diabetes blockbuster Lantus.

The company went public with an unsolicited $9.3 billion offer to buy U.S. cancer firm Medivation MDVN.O in April, setting up what could be a lengthy takeover battle.

"In the past years we have always managed to come up with a 5-10 percent growth in emerging economies and I think we will remain in this range this year, even if we should be closer to 5 percent than 10 percent," Peter Guenter, Sanofi's executive vice president for general medicines and emerging markets, said in an interview with Reuters.

Emerging markets, with expanding middle-class populations, are a big opportunity for global drug companies, although growth rates have slowed in recent years.

China has been particularly tough, following imposed price cuts and more cautious drug promotion in the wake of a record bribery fine for GlaxoSmithKline GSK.L in 2014. Sanofi, however, has recently done better there than some of its rivals.

Guenter will move to a new position on June 1 as head of diabetes and cardiovascular, replacing Pascale Witz who is leaving the company.

The group's 2015 revenues in emerging markets reached 10.6 billion euros ($11.83 billion), up 8 percent at constant currency exchange rates.   Continued...

The Sanofi logo is seen at the company's Sanofi Pasteur headquarters in Lyon, France, October 26, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Pratta