The art of the deal, Sanofi-style

The deal's the thing for Sanofi-Aventis. In announcing street-beating earnings and a 2 percent to 5 percent growth forecast for this year, CEO Chris Viehbacher emphasized how last year's acquisitions helped offset sales lost to generic competition for key drugs. And to keep that offset working as Sanofi faces even more knockoff meds, he's expecting a similar pace of deals in 2010.

Here are the numbers: Q4 profits rose 10 percent, aided by growing sales of the diabetes med Lantus and blood thinner Lovenox (which possibly could get a generic rival later this year). Vaccines sales also lifted results in Q4 and for the entire year, the latter including some 440 million euros' worth of H1N1 shots.

Now back to the deals. Viehbacher says he's interested in acquisitions priced up to $15 billion. Prime targets would be generics makers in emerging markets and consumer-health businesses like Chattem, the U.S. company Sanofi snapped up recently. The idea being to continue implementing the strategy Viehbacher embarked upon after taking over as CEO in 2008. Since then, he's spent $9 billion on more than a dozen deals, Bloomberg notes.

Megamergers remain undesirable, Viehbacher said, and here's why. "When you do smaller to mid-sized deals, it is easier to search, complete a deal, and then hand it over to your line management and move on to the next deal," he tells Bloomberg. "It's when you do a big deal that the whole company gets bogged down in deciding whose e-mail system you're going to use or where headquarters are going to be."

- see the release from Sanofi
- read the Dow Jones story
-  get more from Bloomberg
- check out the Reuters piece