PARIS, Feb 6 (Reuters) - French drugmaker Sanofi posted slightly better-than-expected profit in the fourth quarter and predicted earnings would improve further in 2014, helped by growth in its diabetes and rare diseases units, and in emerging markets.
Sanofi plans to pay a 2013 dividend of 2.80 euros per share, up from 2.77 euros the previous year, the company added in a statement on Thursday.
The company said business earnings per share (EPS) should grow between 4 and 7 percent this year at constant exchange rates, "barring major unforeseen adverse events".
Business net income, which excludes items such as amortisation and legal costs, rose 16.8 percent to 1.81 billion euros ($2.45 billion) in the fourth quarter and was up 30.5 percent at constant exchange rates.
Sales were 0.8 percent lower at 8.46 billion euros, with currency effects knocking 7.3 percentage points off growth.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S had on average forecast quarterly sales of 8.4 billion euros and net income of 1.77 billion.
Full-year sales in emerging markets - where Sanofi makes a third of its total revenue - rose 4.4 percent to 10.96 billion euros at constant exchange rates. This marked a slowdown from the 8.3 percent growth recorded in 2012, hit by inventory issues in Brazil.