Sanofi-Aventis is coming down off its high horse, CEO Chris Viehbacher says. In an interview with Forbes, the new chief says he's changing the company's habits to make it more accessible and open. To wit: One of the first things he did on the job was change the time of quarterly earnings calls with analysts. In the past, they were in the morning--in Paris. So New York analysts had to get up in the wee hours and listen in their pajamas. Now, they're scheduled for Paris afternoons, so everyone can tune in after they've had their morning coffee.
But that's just emblematic of the shift Viehbacher is trying to make, Forbes' Matt Herper says, pointing out a more substantive example. Previous management hardly spoke about emerging side effects of the obesity drug Acomplia, which ended up withdrawn from the market last year. By contrast, Viehbacher spoke up quickly and loudly as soon as studies linked the company's diabetes drug Lantus to an increased risk of cancer. He assembled a panel of experts to pick apart the damaging research and launched his own safety study.
Read the interview for more on Viehbacher's approach, including his focus on emerging markets (which we've looked at extensively) and his pitch to make Sanofi R&D more entrepreneurial (which our sister pub FierceBiotech has been all over). And to see how Viehbacher's doing so far, check out the company's Q3 earnings report, which includes a 6.8 percent increase in net profits, a boost to full-year earnings guidance to account for 11 percent EPS growth, and an 8 percent increase in sales to £7.4 billion ($10.98 billion), despite generic competition that ate into revenues for some of its older drugs.
As the year wears on, look for Sanofi to continue its strategy of snapping up small companies in emerging markets, vaccines and generics, and forging partnerships and/or licensing deals designed to refill its pipeline. Expect continued diversification, as with today's deal to buy Oenobiol, a French maker of nutritional and beauty supplements. And don't expect Viehbacher to change his mind about megamergers, either.