PARIS, April 29 (Reuters) - French drugmaker Sanofi is not looking at selling its animal health business but could look at making it bigger instead, Chief Executive Chris Viehbacher told analysts on a call on Tuesday.
Asked if he would consider selling or swapping Sanofi's animal health business, Viehbacher said: "Our approach to animal health has been that it is part of our diversification strategy" and noted that the unit was "a pretty big business" with a number of new products to come in.
"Obviously this is something that has to contribute to Sanofi's growth over time and we expect it to do so. So there's no thought process about doing anything today. If we could acquire something to make it bigger, we would do so, but again, there are quite a number of constraints on this from an antitrust point of view."
The pharmaceutical industry is abuzz with deals and asset swaps, seeing drugmakers worldwide shake up their portfolios to weed out or beef up businesses that haven't reached critical mass. Eli Lilly said last week it was buying Novartis' animal health business, putting the new merged entity ahead of Sanofi's Merial in terms of global sales.
Sanofi earlier posted lower-than-expected first-quarter earnings, partly weighed down by declining sales of animal health products.
(Reporting by Natalie Huet; editing by Geert De Clercq)