* 2014 business EPS growth beats analysts’ average estimate
* Chairman Weinberg says will announce new CEO by end-Q1
* Weinberg says has stabilised Lantus market share in United States (Adds details)
By Andrew Callus and Gilles Guillaume
PARIS, Feb 5 (Reuters) - French drugs firm Sanofi said on Thursday it would be in a position to name a new chief executive in the coming weeks as it delivered 1.5 percent quarterly earnings per share growth thanks to the weak euro.
“The announcement will be before the end of the first quarter,” said Chairman Serge Weinberg, who has been acting CEO since Chris Viehbacher was fired at the end of October for poor execution of strategy and lack of communication with the board.
Analysts have said the company’s apparent difficulty finding a new CEO after some potential candidates appeared to reject approaches has been weighing on investor sentiment.
A poor sales performance by its key Lantus diabetes drug in the United States was one of the reasons cited for the sacking.
Weinberg said on a quarterly results conference call on Thursday that he had stabilised Lantus’ U.S. market share after replacing more than a third of the people running the business.
Despite the stabilisation at its important diabetes division, the company said in a statement it would need the euro to stay weak if it was to secure significant group earnings growth this year.
It said it saw “stable to slightly growing” 2015 EPS at constant average exchange rates, but with a positive impact of 4 to 5 percent assuming end-2014 exchange rates.
Business earnings per share grew a reported 1.5 percent from a year ago in the fourth quarter to 1.39 euros ($2). At constant exchange rates there would have been no growth.
For the year as a whole, double-digit sales growth in each of its four targeted growth divisions helped Sanofi deliver EPS growth of 3.0 percent to 5.20 euros, ahead of an average analyst forecast of 5.17 euros according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.
Sanofi announced a dividend for 2014 of 2.85 euros, up from 2.80 euros for 2013.
The French pharmaceuticals group shocked investors three months ago by predicting its top-selling Lantus diabetes drug would deliver little growth in the years up to 2018. Viehbacher’s sacking followed a day later. ($1 = 0.8817 euros) (Editing by James Regan)