Sanofi chief hopeful of buying Genzyme

City A.M. Reporter
SANOFI-AVENTIS sees a reasonable chance of buying US biotech Genzyme at a fair price, but expects it will take some time to agree a deal that would further diversify the French drugmaker and strengthen its US foothold.

Chief executive Chris Viehbacher yesterday reiterated Sanofi would not be rushed to buy Genzyme, a specialist in rare diseases, after it rejected Sanofi’s $18.5bn (£11.8bn) non-binding cash offer at the end of August.

“I think there’s a reasonable shot at a deal getting done at a reasonable price, but it’s not going to be a quick process,” Viehbacher said in a webcast presentation at a Bank of America-Merrill Lynch Global Healthcare conference in London.

Genzyme chief executive founder, Henri Termeer, late last month said there was a “high probability” of a deal getting done but demanded, without wanting to specify, a reasonable starting point for negotiations to begin.

Viehbacher had met about 50 per cent of Genzyme shareholders in the US last week and has yet to meet Genzyme management, whom he has accused of forming a “brick wall”, to discuss Sanofi’s offer of $69 a share.

“It was easier to see Genzyme shareholders than management, but that will hopefully change very shortly,” he said.

Viehbacher did not say at what price the Genzyme shareholders he had met would consider selling their holdings in the company.

Several of Sanofi’s key drugs are facing generic competition which along with future patent expiries will shave about a third of its 2008 sales until 2013. Buying Genzyme would help Sanofi bridge that gap and add rare diseases as a sixth growth platform next to others like emerging markets and vaccines.