Sanofi scarce on turnaround details, but left a few needles in the Q4 haystack

If you expected a catalog of detail on Sanofi's ($SNY) turnaround plans with Tuesday's earnings release, think again.

In its written materials and on its fourth-quarter earnings call, Sanofi repeatedly reiterated the strategy it outlined in November, when CEO Olivier Brandicourt unveiled his vision for the French drugmaker's future: Pump up its new launches. Deliver on R&D. Make some deals to simplify and "reshape the portfolio," i.e., double down on its strengths and dispose of less desirable lines of business. And, of course, cut €1.5 billion in annual costs by shedding jobs and unnecessary expenses.

Sanofi executives highlighted some progress with its new launches Toujeo, the "son of Lantus" basal insulin, and Praluent, the cholesterol-fighting PCSK9 drug. Both meds are locked in head-to-head battles for market share, and EVP Pascale Witz laid out Sanofi's progress with payers on both meds, styling it as a prelude to bigger sales growth in the coming year.

Numbers? Lots of them on Praluent's covered lives, now at 172 million, with 40% in exclusive deals, most of the rest on equal footing with Amgen's ($AMGN) Repatha, and 30 million in Medicare Part D. Beyond that, not so much. Toujeo's slight decline in new-to-brand share for Q4--13.5%, compared with 15% in Q3--was a normal plateau effect in a new launch, rather than a sign of a slowdown in converting patients over from Lantus.

As for M&A and other deals, Brandicourt restated his thesis from November: Sanofi would like to bump up its presence in the same areas he highlighted then--including emerging markets, diabetes, rare diseases and several more--with deals that add value and bring earnings to the table. The company has already set up a couple of licensing arrangements in diabetes.

But--also as Brandicourt said then--biotech stocks may have dropped, but the execs and directors at potential buyout targets aren't quite ready to wheel and deal on that basis. One piece of hard news: The company brought in a former Gilead Sciences ($GILD) exec, Muzammil "Muz" Mansuri, to head up business development and lead the dealmaking charge.

The company's cost-cutting plans were addressed only glancingly, with no mention of union negotiations in France, where Sanofi is preparing to cut more than 500 jobs over the next three years.

Brandicourt of course talked up swap negotiations with Boehringer Ingelheim, which would send Sanofi's animal health unit, Merial, to Germany in return for Boehringer's consumer health business. The deal would bring €4.7 billion in cash to Sanofi and a top slot in the consumer health market, with 4.6% share. It's a two birds, one stone deal that would hive off Merial, already tagged for disposal, and beef up the consumer health business, already targeted for growth.

- read FiercePharma's earnings story
- get Sanofi's Q4 presentation
- see FierceBiotech's take on M&A
- check out Sanofi's BD release

Special Report: The top 15 pharma companies by 2014 revenue - Sanofi