French state investment firm eyes stake in Sanofi consumer unit

The French state-owned investment firm may team up with the winning bidder
Photo: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix
Photo: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix
By Albertina Torsoli and Tim Loh, bloomberg

Bpifrance is looking at a potential investment in Sanofi’s consumer health unit as it eyes bigger health investments, according to its executive director Jose Gonzalo.

The French state-owned investment firm is in talks with “many funds” about the Sanofi business and may team up with the winning bidder, Gonzalo said at a Thursday briefing in Paris in response to a question on their strategy. 

Sanofi has been working on a separation of its consumer-health unit, which sells over-the-counter products including Phytoxil cough syrups and Icy Hot pain relief gels. The asset has attracted major private equity funds including Bain Capital and Cinven, while a transaction could be worth USD 20b, Bloomberg News has reported. French buyout firm PAI Partners is also weighing a bid and hoping its status as the only domestic bidder should place it in a pole position, people familiar with the matter have said.

The company is talking to all interested parties, including private equity, with a capital markets option available to the company too, Sanofi Chief Executive Officer Paul Hudson said in a Bloomberg Television interview Wednesday. 

“There’s a huge amount of interest,” he said.

Bpifrance is also studying an investment into French luxury resort chain Club Med, Gonzalo said. Fosun International, Club Med’s Chinese owner, has been weighing options for the business as it looks to raise cash and cut debt. The conglomerate had informally fielded interest from potential investors, Bloomberg News reported in 2022.

Separately, a sale of Les Laboratoires Servier’s generic drugmaker Biogaran is on hold due to the snap parliamentary elections in France, even though Bpifrance has put in a non-binding bid with BC Partners, Gonzalo said. The business has also drawn potential bidders including Indian drugmakers Torrent Pharmaceuticals Ltd. and Aurobindo Pharma, Les Echos and L’Informé have reported.

The French government might block a foreign company from buying Biogaran as the government needs to be able to guarantee the supply of medicines, Industry Minister Roland Lescure said in April.

“I don’t see how Servier could sell Biogaran to an Indian company right now,” Gonzalo said, adding that other deals in France are also on hold because of the elections.

Dealmaking in France has been under the shadow of the elections that could see the far-right led by Marine Le Pen’s National Rally winning a majority. President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist group and a left-wing alliance opposed to Le Pen strategically pulled 223 candidates out of constituencies in an effort to lessen the far-right’s chances of getting enough seats to form a government. 

The second round of the elections will be held on Sunday.

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