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Sanofi considered moving headquarters abroad: report

PARIS (Reuters) - Sanofi's management considered moving its headquarters abroad in the last few months but the plan was nixed by the drugmaker's chairman, French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche reported on Sunday, citing sources close to the board.

First mooted in July, when the Socialist government was preparing to introduce a 75 percent tax on top earnings, the plan envisaged moving the headquarters to London or the United States, or at least relocating Chief Executive Chris Viehbacher and his closest associates abroad.

However, Chairman Serge Weinberg vetoed the project, the newspaper said, saying that Viehbacher had not raised the issue with him.

A Sanofi spokesman denied such plans were discussed and said the company's recent move to new corporate headquarters in Paris showed its commitment to its base in the city.

Several of the company's top executives are foreign and spend most of their time travelling abroad.

In addition to German-Canadian Viehbacher, they include Elias Zerhouni, an Algerian-born American in charge of research and development, and Hanspeter Spek, the German-born president of global operations.

Italian Roberto Pucci, senior vice president of human resources, and Karen Linehan, Sanofi's American-born general counsel, are also part of the executive committee.

Sanofi, which is reshuffling its French research operations at a cost of around 900 jobs, would not be the first French firm to consider moving top executives overseas.

French industrial conglomerate Schneider Electric has kept its headquarters near Paris, but its top managers, including Chief Executive Jean-Pascal Tricoire, relocated to Hong Kong last year in a move to be closer to fast-growing markets in Asia.

Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, who has opposed the reorganization of Sanofi's research activities in France, was cited by the newspaper as saying he hoped the plan was just a rumor.

(Reporting by Elena Berton; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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