(Updated with details, context, stock market price)

by Matthias Blamont and Blandine Henault

PARIS, July 29 (Reuters) – Sanofi SASY.PA announced on Wednesday that it was revising upwards its forecast for net earnings per share (EPS) from activities for 2020 after recording an increase in this profit in the second quarter thanks to the cost savings achieved and the capital gain resulting from the sale of almost all of its stake in the American Regeneron REGN.O.

The pharmaceutical group now anticipates an EPS of activities growing between 6% and 7% at constant exchange rates, whereas it previously forecast an increase of around 5%.

In the second quarter, business EPS rose 4.8% at constant exchange rates to 1.28 euros. Growth reached 9.2% over the first half of the year.

Sanofi’s activity was not spared by the coronavirus pandemic, however, and its net sales fell 3.4% in the second quarter at constant exchange rates, to 8.2 billion euros.

The sales of the general medicine division fell by 12.7%, those of the vaccines branch by 6.8%, while the general public health activity saw its revenues fall by 8%.

Only specialty medicine sales increased 17.4%, driven primarily by the success of Dupixent, a treatment for atopic dermatitis, whose sales jumped 70% in the second quarter.

“Despite the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we managed to generate growth in EPS from activities, supported by the strong performance of Dupixent, our savings initiatives and the commitment of our employees”, commented the CEO Paul Hudson quoted in a statement.

Sanofi said it generated € 990 million in savings in the first half.

At the Paris Bourse, the action of the pharmaceutical group gained 0.44% at the end of the morning to 89.9 euros.

VACCINE RUN

Since last December, Sanofi has launched a new strategy focused on vaccines, rare diseases and oncology, which has led it to abandon its research on diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Like many of its competitors, the group has also entered the race for the COVID-19 vaccine.

He is currently working on two projects: one uses an adjuvant manufactured by the British GlaxoSmithKline GSK.L, and the other, developed in collaboration with the American company Translate Bio TBIO.O, is an mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine.

Neither of these two vaccines are among the most advanced projects, but Sanofi hopes that its experience with the flu vaccine will ultimately give it an advantage.

The group announced on Wednesday that it had reached an agreement with its partner GSK with the British government to provide 60 million doses of their future vaccine against COVID-19.

Sanofi, which leads the clinical development and registration procedures for this vaccine candidate, plans to begin a phase I / II study in September, which will be followed by a phase III study by the end of 2020.

If the data is positive, its regulatory approval could be obtained as early as the first half of 2021, said the group which plans with GSK to manufacture up to one billion doses per year.

Regarding its other vaccine in development, Sanofi plans to launch a Phase I study by the end of the year and, if the data is positive, gain approval no earlier than the second half of 2021.

(Blandine Hénault with Matthias Blamont, edited by Myriam Rivet and Jean-Michel Bélot)

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