PARIS Sanofi (SASY.PA) has held talks with Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N), Mylan (MYL.O) and private equity firms over the possible sale of a 6.3 billion euro ($8.5 billion) portfolio of mature drugs, according to an internal document seen by Reuters.
The 25-page document, a copy of which was circulated by the CGT union on Wednesday, details a plan presented to the company's investment committee on May 6 dubbed the "Phoenix project".
It shows Sanofi is considering whether to sell, carve out or create a joint venture for a portfolio of some 200 mature drugs that includes blood thinner Plavix, anti-epileptic Depakine and antibiotic Pyostacine.
The portfolio currently accounts for annual sales of about 2.1 billion euros but these are projected to drop by two-fifths in the next decade as European countries tighten healthcare budgets and impose lower drug prices.
No decision has yet been made on the portfolio, a Sanofi spokesman said.
"Materials and studies on different topics are regularly presented to the investment committee, and it doesn't always take action or render decisions based on presented materials," he said in an emailed statement.
Reuters had reported in April that Sanofi was looking to sell a multi-billion portfolio of mature products, as drugmakers worldwide seek to shed non-core assets and focus on high-growth areas.
The Phoenix project aims to minimize exposure to price cuts, reduce Sanofi's manufacturing in Europe and free up cash, according to the document. It would concern six manufacturing and distribution sites and some 2,600 staff in Europe, mainly in France, Spain, Italy and Germany.
The document shows that as of May, Sanofi had begun talks with Abbott, Mylan and private equity firms TPG and Warburg Pincus as potential buyers or venture partners.
It adds that Pfizer (PFE.N), Otsuka (4768.T) and Teva (TEVA.TA) were not interested in the portfolio, while talks with AstraZeneca (AZN.L) and GSK (GSK.L) were still pending.
The CGT union said in a statement it planned to bring the document to the attention of the French government to denounce what it called Sanofi's "capitalist Monopoly game" and to protect local jobs.
"It shows that management's strategy is to withdraw from Europe and particularly from France," the union said.
Drug companies are increasingly looking to shed smaller divisions they view as non-core so they can better focus on their mainstay products. They have also shown willingness to consider large asset swaps with rivals to exit weaker businesses and reinforce core areas where they are already top players.
($1 = 0.7388 Euros)
(Editing by James Regan; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)