Sanofi changes name, pace of acquisitions to slow

PARIS Fri May 6, 2011 2:49pm EDT

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PARIS May 6 (Reuters) - Sanofi (SASY.PA) shareholders approved a move to drop Aventis from its name on Friday after buying U.S. biotech Genzyme, seven years after the merger of France's Sanofi-Synthelabo with Franco-German group Aventis.

The company had said on April 4, when it won control of Genzyme in a $20 billion deal, that it wanted to shorten the name as it was difficult to pronounce in several languages, including in China. [ID:nLDE72U0E2]

Sanofi Chief Executive Chris Viehbacher told shareholders at its annual meeting that the drugmaker would now slow down the rhythm of acquisitions, though it would still look at opportunities to expand in fast-growing emerging markets.

"(Sanofi) will continue to make acquisitions in emerging countries ... but we have a lot of things to do to make sure the (Genzyme) integration is smooth, so we will slow down acquisitions a bit," the CEO said.

He reiterated that animal health was an area where Sanofi may expand through takeovers.

Still, the priority remained integrating Genzyme and reducing debt, he said.

Viehbacher also confirmed that Sanofi would maintain its dividend at the same level or raise it in the coming years, despite the arrival of generic versions of its drugs eating into sales. The dividend for 2010 was 2.50 euros a share.

The CEO received total compensation of 3.6 million euros for 2010, slightly lower than the 3.67 million he received the previous year, according to a document presented to shareholders at the Friday meeting.

The value of stock options he was awarded rose to 275,000 euros from 250,000 euros, however.

Viehbacher's fixed salary would remain at 1.2 million euros for 2011, with the possibility of up to 2.4 million in bonuses. The value of stock options awarded would rise to 300,000 euros. (Reporting by Noelle Mennella; Editing by Richard Chang)

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