Sanofi, Genzyme chiefs cite progress in merger talks

Yesterday Sanofi ($SNY) CEO Chris Viehbacher (photo) got a chance to sound mildly positive about the chances of hashing out a merger pact with Genzyme ($GENZ). And today Genzyme CEO Henri Termeer (photo) stopped for a moment to endorse the peace offensive, telling Reuters Ben Hirschler in Davos that there's no immediate threat of a proxy fight or other hostilities as long as both sides remain at the bargaining table.

Behind the scenes, though, it's business as usual as sources feed Hirschler a steady diet of "what if." Insiders tell the news wire now that Sanofi has hired a search firm to find possible board candidates for a proxy fight--provided the current talks don't pan out. But Termeer shrugged off the suggestion.

"If we were not talking, if we were blocking everything, then maybe that is the only course you can go. But when you have two parties that are constructively engaged, you try to get to an agreement," says the CEO. Termeer also noted that while a contingent value right deal on the company's MS program may help pave the way to a deal, Genzyme investors are also demanding to see more cash on the table. Sanofi officially hasn't budged from its initial $18.5 billion offer, $69 a share, which Genzyme execs regularly scoff at.

Bloomberg, meanwhile, managed to get a few minutes with Viechbacher today, who offered that there's been "some progress" in the talks. If the two companies can consummate the deal, he added, Sanofi would have a much bigger footprint in the U.S. biotech arena.

"We have less research presence in the U.S. and we already have some commitment in the Cambridge area," the CEO told Bloomberg. "Sanofi hasn't been as committed in biotech as other companies so that would accelerate our strategy" to grow in the field. 

- see the Reuters story
- here's the Bloomberg piece