Analysts predict Sanofi shakeup in 2009

Sanofi-Aventis must be expecting a big fourth quarter. Despite the fact that its third-quarter profits came in 28 percent lower than last year's, the drugmaker hiked its 2008 forecast, saying it's expecting EPS to rise by 9 percent, versus its previous estimate of an 8 percent increase. Third-quarter sales fell 2.4 percent to $8.68 billion on the weaker dollar (which since has rebounded); net income ran to about $1.7 billion. Vaccine sales growth outperformed drug sales, rising 9.4 percent compared with a 4.9 percent increase in pharma revenues.

So why the optimism? Sanofi held up against an onslaught of generic copies of its meds, for one thing. Both Ambien, the leading sleeping pill, and Plavix, the clotting drug, faced copycat competition; Plavix still managed a 5.7 percent rise.

Nonetheless, Sanofi still is in dire need of new meds for its pipeline, and that's one reason why analysts are anticipating a big shakeup when incoming CEO Chris Viehbacher (photo)--late of GlaxoSmithKline--takes over from Gerard Le Fur (photo) in December. They're looking for some dealmaking when the new year comes. Stay tuned.

- read the WSJ story