French newspaper Le Figaro has claimed that Sanofi plans to axe between 1,500 and 2,500 jobs next week, with employees in France bearing the brunt of the cutbacks.
The article says that Sanofi is poised to announce the job cuts on September 25 as it tries to reduce its French workforce from its current level of around 28,000 staff, and suggests that the pharma company will try to meet the target through attrition.
In July, Sanofi said it would press ahead with plans to reduce its headcount despite pressure from the French government, which has adopted a 'name-and-shame' policy to try to discourage companies from cutting back staff if they remain profitable.
Sanofi's second-quarter results statement showed that the company's earnings had been hit by generic competition to big brands - notably antiplatelet drug Plavix (clopidogrel) - with net income declining around 10 per cent to €1.94bn, although turnover rose 6 per cent.
Rumours of job cuts have been circulating for some time, with Le Figaro claiming last month that 1,000 to 2,000 French jobs were at risk, with most of the cuts expected at Sanofi's research operations, the manufacturing unit at vaccines subsidiary Sanofi Pasteur and the company's headquarters in Paris.
If confirmed, the latest cuts come in the wake of the closure of a plant in the UK with 450 job losses in March, undisclosed reductions following its 2011 takeover of Genzyme and 575 shed positions at Sanofi's commercial operations in France earlier that year.
The reductions in the commercial operations sparked industrial action by disgruntled workers, who protested the loss of an estimated 4,000 jobs in France since 2000. Reuters reported last week that strikes are being planned for September 25 and October 3, even though the details of the plan have not yet been officially disclosed.
Since the July announcement, Sanofi has been in negotiation with trade unions over cost-cutting measures and has made no secret of the fact that its French R&D operations have been in its sights, particularly facilities in Toulouse and Montpellier.
During the company's second-quarter results call, chief executive Chris Viehbacher said that the acquisition of Genzyme had transformed Sanofi's research and made it clear that productivity had to be improved.
"The reality is that our research in France has not really come up with a new medicine in 20 years," he said, while stressing that the planned reductions "are not really related to our cost-reduction programme [but] changing the R&D paradigm".
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