Sanofi CEO generates news trifecta

Sanofi-Aventis CEO Chris Viehbacher has been all over the airwaves, parceling out one big piece of news after another. First came the company's earnings and an interview with Forbes magazine. Then, Viehbacher told the Wall Street Journal Health Blog that it's likely he'll hook his animal health business back up with Merck's once the latter's Schering-Plough merger wraps. Over the weekend, the CEO told a German newspaper that he intends to double his vaccine business over the next five years. Finally, this morning the company announced an executive-suite reshuffle.

First, the executive changes: Vaccines chief Wayne Pisano joins Sanofi's executive committee; dare we assume that it's because of Viehbacher's big goals for that unit? EVP of pharma ops Hanspeter Spek got a broader portfolio, with responsibility for global operations, period. Plus, Marc Cluzel moves up to EVP of R&D; he had been SVP. In a release, Viehbacher said Cluzel's elevation comes because of "the strategic importance of transforming" that part of Sanofi's business.

Speaking of transforming, Viehbacher's vaccine aims are pretty transformative in themselves, Reuters reports. He told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that he'd like to double that business within five years, boosting its share of group sales to 15 to 16 percent from 10 to 11 percent currently.

Then there's the animal-health tie-up he's expecting with Merck; Sanofi snapped up Merck's 50 percent stake in their Merial joint venture, helping clear the way for Merck's merger with Schering. Post-merger, Sanofi has the option to go back into animal-health business with Merck, combining their assets into a $5.6 billion (sales) alliance. Viehbacher says there's a "better than 50-50" chance that the J.V. will enter a new chapter, provided antitrust regulators gave the OK. "I would say it's more likely than not," he told the Health Blog. No doubt Viehbacher will be happy to talk about it again when the time comes.

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