Emerging Markets Will Drive Business in 2011: Sanofi CEO

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Latin America is a “very underestimated area of opportunity” for business, Chris Viehbacher, CEO of the drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis, told CNBC Tuesday.

“There’s been huge progress made by their governments in terms of restructuring their economies, seeing good growth, so that’s a very high priority [for Sanofi ].

We have strong leadership in Latin America,” added Viehbacher, who was speaking at the JP Morgan HealthCare Conference in San Francisco.

He said that both Russia and India also are highly desirable markets. Viehbacher noted that when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Putin expressed strong interest in promoting solid health care. “When you meet with him, he’s very concerned about Type 2 diabetes, making sure that there’s better health care in Russia.”

India, with its burgeoning population, has the highest population of those with Type 2 diabetes in the world, said Viehbacher. Among the diabetes drugs Sanofi manufactures are Apidra and Lantus.

“Right now, we do one-third of our sales in US, one-third in Latin America and one-third in emerging markets, said the CEO. “In 2011, we’ll sell more in emerging markets than either the US or Europe.”

Viehbacher said that both Sanofi and Genzyme , which it is trying to acquire, have a “way to go” before it could reach an agreement on the deal. Sanofi has made an offer of $.69 a share for Genzyme, with a value of $18.5 billion.