France against Servier selling generics unit Biogaran, PM says

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits France

PARIS (Reuters) -The French government has told drugmaker Servier it is against any sale of its generics subsidiary Biogaran, which has a market share of almost a third in the country, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.

French media reported last month that Servier had asked potential suitors to file their offers by mid-June.

"Biogaran is a French jewel ... it (the brand) is one out of eight medicine packs sold in our country. It represents more than 8,500 direct and indirect jobs throughout France as well as thousands of molecules that are useful, necessary for our health," Attal told lawmakers.

"Dealing with a company as strategic as Biogaran, we have been very clear with Servier: we do not wish that they sell Biogaran."

Last month, the French government told ailing IT consulting firm Atos it was intent on acquiring all of its activities it deems strategic as the company restructures its debt.

"If Servier nonetheless opts for a sale of Biogaran, we would consider activating the screening of foreign investments in France, which we have significantly strengthened since 2017, a procedure that allows us to guarantee our sovereignty," Attal said.

"We will monitor this case very closely, and I say it here loud and clear, any non-European buyer should be ready for drastic conditions even he nourished any hopes to buy Biogaran," Attal added.

Servier, an unlisted company which was recently in the news for being ordered to pay a more than $470-million fine in connection with the weight-loss pill Mediator, declined to make any comment when contacted by Reuters.

Since Sanofi, France's largest pharmaceutical company, missed out on the race for COVID-19 vaccines several years ago, the issue of "health sovereignty" is high up on the list of the French government.

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Diana Mandia; Editing by Tassilo Hummel and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)