Sanofi balks on jobs promises at R&D site in Toulouse

Sanofi ($SNY) can't shake the underproductive R&D site in Toulouse, France, without a fight from workers and French government officials. In the latest chapter of the ongoing feud, the Paris-based drug giant and a familiar critic in France's government show how far apart they stand on the fate of the research operation that brought the world the blood-thinner Plavix.

France's Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg has stuck another thorn in side of Sanofi. As Bloomberg reports this morning, Montebourg stated that Sanofi has agreed to the terms of a government-sponsored report to keep the Toulouse site open and jobs there intact. Yet a Sanofi spokeswoman told the news service that the company has made no promises about jobs in Toulouse, where the company employs more than 600 people.

The divergent views on Sanofi's commitment come nearly a year after the pharma group touched off protests with its plans to shutter research outposts in Toulouse and Montpellier. In Toulouse, the government-backed report says Sanofi should keep 500 of 612 workers there without layoffs and fuel continued hunts for new therapies, as Bloomberg reported. Sanofi would like to see a more independent future for the facility, however, with the site housing a new crop of startups and pharma services groups.

Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher has sought to part ways with Toulouse as part of a global R&D reboot that has resulted in a greater emphasis on research in the Boston area, where the company's oncology and Genzyme units are based. Toulouse researchers' claim to fame was Plavix, which lost patent protections last year, and the CEO has noted a lack of productivity there.

France is still home for Sanofi, which first called for reducing its headcount in the country by 2,500 last year before committing to 900 cuts. The company has invested in operations in Lyon and promised to turn the Montpellier site into a development center, Bloomberg reports. Still, Montebourg has been steadfast about the company keeping jobs in Toulouse and arm-wrestling between the official and Viehbacher appears far from over. 

- see Bloomberg's article