Sanofi Quarterly Sales Sluggish with Focus on Integrating Bioverativ and Ablynx
By Mark Terry
Paris-based Sanofi reported mixed first-quarter revenues, with net sales down 8.7 percent to 7,898 million euros. But Sanofi Genzyme sales were up 16.2 percent, mostly the result of its new immunology franchise. Diabetes and Cardiovascular GBU sales dropped 15.7 percent and global Diabetes franchise sales dropped 10 percent.
“In the first quarter, the performance of our global operations, coupled with disciplined expense management, allowed us to manage the impact of the losses of exclusivity for Lantus and sevelamer in the U.S.,” said Olivier Brandicourt, Sanofi’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “Furthermore, with the consolidation of Bioverativ and the acquisition of Ablynx, we have established the foundation for a global Rare Blood Disorder franchise which will further enhance our leadership in Specialty Care. Importantly, we continue to execute on our business priorities and position the Company for a new period of growth which is expected to begin in the second half of 2018.”
Analysts with Barclays wrote in a note to investors, “There is no significant research and development news. There is also no underlying full-year guidance change, whilst forex is guided to be worse.”
Sanofi acquired Bioverative for $11.6 billion in January and Ablynx for 3.9 billion euros. It is also in talks with Advent International, a private equity firm, to sell its Zentiva European generics drugs division for 1.9 billion euros.
Reuters notes, “Sanofi is still grappling with a health scare surrounding its world-first dengue vaccine in the Philippines that shows no sign of abating. Separately, some investors have said the firm is still lacking a robust portfolio of new drugs. Sanofi hopes its hiring of former Roche top scientist John Reed to head its research operations from July 1 will help soothe those concerns. He will replace departing industry veteran Elias Zerhouni when he retires.”
The company also presented an update on its SAR425899 for overweight and obese type 2 diabetic patients. The company found that it is a potent agent for controlling blood sugar and can lead to weight loss. “However, the gastrointestinal tolerability observed with the dose escalation regimen used in the study is not considered to be acceptable for clinical use. An additional study was initiated in the first quarter to explore alternative titration regimens to facilitate improve tolerability and adherence and is expected to read-out in 2018.”
Zerhouni, in a call with analysts, said, “We had two significant primary endpoints we needed to achieve on the efficacy side, and we actually hit more than our minimal primary endpoint of the GLP-1 reduction of HbA1c.”
However, he went on to say, “The true issue is tolerability, and drop out of a quarter of the patients, because of the tolerability issues. We had a higher GLP-1 effect in the molecule than we expected from our non-human primate data, and we think that the titration was too abrupt and so that’s what we’re working on.”
Zerhouni, who will be retiring at the end of June, was asked what he felt went well during his tenure. “On the ‘what went well list,’ do you have enough time?” he joked. “No, OK, well, frankly, the best thing we were able to do was to re-shape the R&D organization; it was very fragmented and we were able to bring it down to just three major sites: Boston, Paris and Frankfurt and reduce headcount sufficiently to free up resources to do what we needed to do.”
When asked for the downside, he said, “The length of time to do the social planning in Europe; it takes a long time and it affects research operations, so we weren’t done with that process until 2015 and in research, it takes a long time to mature, so I wish that had gone faster.”
Although the company indicates it will keep an eye out for potential bolt-on acquisitions, much of their energy is on integrating Bioverative and Ablynx into their operations.