Sanofi under fire in France over new CEO's pay package

PARIS, Feb 23 (Reuters) - French pharmaceuticals group Sanofi came under fire from French government ministers on Monday over a welcome bonus planned for its new CEO.

Sanofi’s new boss, Olivier Brandicourt could pocket a one-off golden handshake of 4 million euros ($4.5 million) in addition to making 4.2 million euros a year.

Government spokesman Stephane Le Foll blasted the package for the new boss of France’s largest listed company as “incomprehensible”.

“These people, when they have hardly taken the reins of a company - which is to say they haven’t yet taken any risk - are already assured to get a disproportionate package,” Le Foll said on RTL radio.

The company said on Friday that the former medical doctor would be paid a fixed salary of 1.2 million euros a year plus, a performance-related amount targeted at 150 percent of that with a cap at 250 percent. He would also get stock options and performance shares.

His 4 million euro golden handshake on top of that was billed as compensation for loss of benefits at his former employer Bayer, and will be split between 2 million when he starts in April and the rest in January 2016 if he is still in the job.

Executive pay is frequently a touchy subject in egalitarian France, even at investor-controlled companies like Sanofi, where the government has no direct say in pay packages.

The Socialist government has set limits on executive pay for public sector companies. Le Foll, who is also the farms minister, said it could also make rules for private firms, although it was up to them to show “a bit of ethics”.

Senior government minister Segolene Royal weighed into the debate with harsh words, also saying “some self-discipline is needed.”

“Drugs are reimbursed by taxpayers, so it’s all of the French people who pay into the health system and reimburse drugs who are going to pay the golden handshake,” Royal said on BFM TV.

“Some decency is in store, especially from a pharmaceutical company that lives off the social security system,” added Royal, who is energy and environment minister.

$1 = 0.8830 euros Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Andrew Callus