Sanofi CEO: M&A's just too expensive nowadays

Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher

Don't expect Sanofi's ($SNY) Chris Viehbacher to bring a shopping cart when he settles into his new home in the biopharma hub of Boston, as the CEO tells Bloomberg that he'd rather stand pat with his pipeline than pay a premium inflated by the recent biotech boom.

Sanofi always keeps its eye out, Viehbacher said, "but, at today's prices, I don't see anything that I can acquire that strengthens our company and creates value for our shareholders." And, "unlike everyone else," Sanofi believes it already has a promising, diversified stable of drugs that'll fuel future growth, he said.

Viehbacher has in the past described his company's pipeline as among the industry's top 5, pointing to the promising PCSK9 drug alirocumab, the rheumatoid arthritis treatment sarilumab, the mid-stage atopic dermatitis therapy dupilumab and a long-in-development dengue fever vaccine.

"Valuations are extremely high right now," Viehbacher told Bloomberg. "I am very glad I did most of my M&A activity from 2009 to 2011. I am feeling great about what we have; I haven't felt this great in years."

And Viehbacher's aversion to high-dollar dealmaking may reflect what he learned in the aforementioned two-year period: Sanofi's $20.1 billion acquisition of Genzyme gave it a foothold in rare diseases, but the buyout has lost much of its luster in retrospect after clinical, regulatory and commercial disappointments.

Since then, when Sanofi sees promising external programs, it has looked to partner up and not buy outright, a strategy Viehbacher has said encourages innovation without disrupting a functional culture. Three of the CEO's name-checked pipeline stars are due to such a collaboration with Regeneron ($REGN), a Big Biotech Viehbacher has said he has no interest in buying up. Earlier this year, Sanofi made a move to replicate that fruitful partnership by paying $700 million for a 12% stage in RNAi luminary Alnylam ($ALNY).

- read the interview
- and here's FiercePharma's take