Drugmaker Sanofi Sees Weak 2017 Earnings, Not in Hurry for M&A

France's biggest drugmaker, Sanofi , which missed out on a major takeover deal last month, said on Wednesday it expected 2017 earnings per share to be stable or slightly lower.

The company was reporting fourth-quarter results hit by higher taxes and one-off charges.

The group had warned investors in 2015 not to expect any 'meaningful' profit growth for two years because of a downturn in its embattled diabetes division.

"In 2017 and beyond we will continue to simplify and reshape the company," Chief Executive Olivier Brandicourt told journalists. "We will be supported by our current growth engine businesses: Sanofi Genzyme, vaccines and consumer healthcare."

Under pressure from investors to land a significant acquisition that would help Sanofi resist a tough pricing environment in the United States, the world's largest health market, Brandicourt said Sanofi was "not in a hurry to do M&A."

U.S. healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson said last month it would buy Swiss biotech company Actelion in a $30 billion all-cash deal, edging out Sanofi, which also tried to buy the company, according to people familiar with the matter.

Sanofi was also trumped last August by a $14 billion bid for cancer specialist Medivation which came from Pfizer.

Brandicourt signaled in January an unwillingness to overpay for pricey assets and a lack of good opportunities.

"The only principle we will follow is to create value for shareholders and always consider the strategic fit," Brandicourt said on Wednesday.

Sanofi's shares were up 3.1 percent at 78.26 euros by 0822 GMT.

Sanofi said fourth-quarter business net income fell 2.9 percent at constant exchange rates to 1.61 billion euros ($1.7 billion). Total sales rose 3.4 percent to 8.87 billion euros.

Analysts polled by Reuters in partnership with Inquiry Financial had on average been expecting business net profit of 1.57 billion euros and net sales of 8.94 billion.

Sanofi said its fourth-quarter effective tax rate had reached 24 pct compared with 17.4 pct in 2015.

($1 = 0.9367 euros)

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont and Matthieu Protard; Editing Andrew Callus and Louise Heavens)