France’s under-fire Sanofi reports profit, dividend boost

PARIS (AFP) – French pharmaceuticals giant Sanofi, under fire for a delay in its Covid-19 vaccine, reported yesterday much higher 2020 earnings and a bigger shareholder payout.

It said net profit jumped to EUR12.3 billion from EUR2.8 billion in 2019, boosted by a one-time gain of more than EUR7.0 billion from the sale of shares in Regeneron, the United States (US) firm leading the pack in antibody treatments for Covid-19.

The board proposed paying a dividend of EUR3.2 a share or more than EUR4 billion in all.

The healthy financial performance of the group contrasts with its poor public image in France following a PR debacle surrounding its work developing a vaccine against coronavirus.

In May last year, its British CEO Paul Hudson said the US would get its jabs before the rest of the world because of Washington’s investment in its research, sparking fierce criticism in France.

In the end, the group said it will have its candidate ready only at the end of 2021 and it has announced plans to help rivals Pfizer-BioNTech produce their world-leading inoculation. The group’s cost-cutting measures, including in its research and development teams in France, have also been criticised in the media and by many French political figures. In its results statement, the group said it had saved around EUR1.7 billion with cuts last year, around 60 per cent of which has been re-invested.

Sanofi, a leading manufacturer of vaccines worldwide, said sales of the products had increased by nearly nine per cent to EUR6 billion last year, with a 38-per-cent increase in demand for flu jabs.

A Sanofi sign outside the French drugmaker’s Paris headquarters. PHOTO: AFP