Sanofi tiptoes toward selling some older products

Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher

Back in April, Sanofi ($SNY) was said to be considering some spring cleaning, weighing a sale of older products to make room for the bolt-on deals CEO Chris Viehbacher wants to make. Sanofi appears to be heading down that path; the pharma giant is in the "very early stages" of weighing a sale of its older meds, Reuters sources say.

According to trade union reps, Sanofi managers mentioned "a reflection on an international level" about selling the company's more senior products, noting that the sale process hasn't kicked off yet.

Reuters previously reported that the for-sale group could include treatments for high blood pressure and cardio-metabolic diseases, which generate about $3.7 billion in annual revenue combined. A sale would be likely to snag $7 billion to $8 billion for the French drugmaker, the news service said.

Sanofi's not the only company looking to unload some of its aging therapies. Big Pharma rivals including Merck ($MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) have said they're interested in jettisoning portfolios of past-their-prime sellers. Putting certain established products on the block would help them refocus on newer, fast-growing meds.

It's just another part of the slim-down craze sweeping through pharma, with drugmakers doubling down on their core strengths and getting out of fields where they're weaker. Novartis and Glaxo set the tone a few months back with a multibillion-dollar asset swap; Glaxo picked up Novartis' ($NVS) vaccines unit and sold its own oncology line-up to the Swiss drugmaker. Merck followed suit shortly after with the $14.2 billion sale of its consumer health unit to Bayer.

Like Novartis and Glaxo, Sanofi isn't just selling. Thursday, a consortium led by the Paris-based company agreed to pick up a 66% stake in Dubai Investments' Globalpharma unit for an undisclosed sum, Reuters reported. Sanofi will manage Globalpharma, using it as a platform for manufacturing and promoting its generics offerings in the Middle East.

As GlobalPharma CEO Khalid Bin Kalban put it, the region's pharmaceutical sector is expecting a sizeable expansion in coming years. With a stable of pharma products including antibiotics, painkillers and cardiovascular meds registered in more than 14 countries across the Middle East and elsewhere, his company will help Sanofi capitalize on that expansion.

"We believe that the new partnership being forged with Sanofi will propel Globalpharma to the next level of its growth," he told Reuters.

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