Sanofi looks to China in business restructure
- Sanofi will give its business in China a more prominent billing in how it presents financial results, highlighting the growing importance of the country's pharmaceutical market to the French drugmaker.
- In an organizational restructuring announced Thursday, two of Sanofi's five "global business units" will be recast to more clearly split operations in mature economies like the U.S., Europe and Canada from emerging markets like China.
- The changes will rebrand Sanofi's current general medicine and emerging markets unit as "China and Emerging Markets," placing older, established products such as the company's anticoagulant Lovenox alongside diabetes and cardiovascular medicines in a newly created "Primary Care" business.
As the second largest individual market for Sanofi's medicines, China has become an important driver of revenue growth for the French drugmaker — particularly as sales in the U.S. slow.
Since 2010, product revenues from China have grown at double-digit rates in all but two years, more than tripling from 667 million euros ($880 million at the time) to more than 2.2 billion euros ($2.51 billion) last year.
Resolution of supply constraints for the five-in-one combination vaccine Pentaxim (DTaP-IPV-Hib), expected this year, should give a further boost.
Thursday's changes are organizational, rather than a new focus. Still, the elevation of China and emerging markets to an independent business unit — with established products in mature economies stripped out — reflects the greater impact sales in these growing countries have on Sanofi's bottom line.
Older drugs like the diabetes medicine Lantus (insulin glargine) and the anticoagulant Plavix (clopidogrel) account for much of Sanofi's business in China. Reforms by Chinese regulators, however, have opened the door to newer drugs, creating greater opportunities for multinational pharmas.
AstraZeneca, for example, recorded nearly 25% year-over-year growth in China sales over the first six months of 2018, and recently secured approval there for its new cancer drug Tagrisso (osimertinib).
That said, Sanofi's China sales remain dwarfed by the near 10 billion euros it generated in Europe last year, and the almost 12 billion euros earned in the U.S.
Olivier Charmeil, who currently heads Sanofi's retiring general medicines and emerging markets unit, will stay on to run the new business group.
Dieter Weinand, head of Bayer's pharmaceuticals division, will take over as chief of Sanofi's new primary care business, while Stefan Oelrich will leave Sanofi as head of diabetes to take Weinand's soon-to-be vacant spot at Bayer.
Both new units will launch early 2019. Sanofi's other three business franchises will remain the same.
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