Employees of Sanofi Bangladesh Limited are uncertain whether they will receive compensation as the company has finally shared its roadmap to leave Bangladesh by the end of this year, or early next year, according to a company document obtained by The Business Standard.
"The management has discussed with us their exit plan, but they did not say anything about employee compensation," said Sanjeeb Kumar Chakraborty, convenor of Sanofi Bangladesh Employees' Welfare Association.
"They just said they will discuss the issue later. The employees have been demonstrating since September last year demanding compensation," he added.
Sanjeeb said most of the employees want to resume demonstrations after Eid-ul-Adha at the 22 branch offices of the company across the country.
In response to a query by The Business Standard, the company said it continues its efforts to sell and transfer its business stake.
It said the employees and relevant stakeholders have been duly informed of this progress.
"Sanofi remains committed to identifying a trustworthy organisation that will in turn commit to carry on the Sanofi legacy by way of ethical and scientific promotion of the Sanofi portfolio in the long term for the benefit of both our employees and the patients that we serve."
It also said in its email response, "As a responsible company, Sanofi puts the interests and well-being of its employees on high priority in its consideration of an appropriate fit amongst potential buyers. Furthermore, Sanofi will continue to make available its high-quality medicines to patients and doctors in Bangladesh."
The French pharmaceutical giant is expected to formally announce its decision to sell the Bangladesh unit in September. According to company insiders, some foreign and local buyers have already expressed interest in buying the drug maker that specialises in vaccines, insulin and chemotherapeutic drugs.
Company insiders said Sanofi has about 100 products in Bangladesh. Of them, a good number of sensitive and high-tech products like vaccines, insulin and chemotherapeutic drugs are imported directly from France, the US, the UK and Germany.
The rest are produced in its world-class plant located in Gazipur's Tongi. Sanofi products are manufactured maintaining the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) standard and storage procedure.
Since 1958, Sanofi Bangladesh Limited has been operating in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government owns 45.36 percent of shares in the company.
Sanofi has been marketing global brands like: Lantus, Apidra, Taxotere, Eloxatin, Clexane, Amaryl, Insuman and Epilim – along with other growth-driven brands, including Sefrad, Sefurox, Kuracef, Curazith, Fimoxyl, Flagyl, Profenid, Xerosec, and Sandom – in Bangladesh, according to the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
According to Sanofi's roadmap, it informed its business partners between October 2019 and June this year that it is seeking business alternatives in Bangladesh.
It told the employees that it is trying to find a trustworthy organisation to transfer its stakes to.
It also said it would continue its presence in the Bangladeshi market through a new business model with its products. It assured doctors and patients of the continuity of its drugs in the market.
Between July and September this year, it has plans to conduct at least four board meetings with the government to discuss the way forward. It will also conduct meetings with local and international companies willing to buy its shares.
Finally, it wants to close the Bangladesh chapter by signing an agreement with a new entity by the end of 2020 or early 2021.
Discussion on leaving Bangladesh
In the first week of August last year, the company conveyed its decision to leave Bangladesh to the state-run Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC), which is a shareholder of its local operations.
A top BCIC official told The Business Standard that the company had talked about leaving Bangladesh at several meetings but had not submitted any written document in this regard yet.
In terms of shares, the BCIC holds 19.962 percent and the ministry of industries 25.396 percent – with 54.642 percent owned by the multinational company.
Each year, the company contributes more than Tk1.5 crore to the national exchequer.
As of December 2017, the paid-up capital of the company was estimated at around Tk36 crore while the total assets of the company have been calculated at nearly Tk515 crore – with external liabilities amounting to Tk265 crore.
On the basis of net asset value per share, the BCIC invested Tk50 crore, the industries ministry invested Tk63 crore and the firm itself invested Tk136 crore.
Bangladesh's drug market has been expanding at a double digit rate, reaching a figure of around $2 billion. Sanofi holds over two percent shares in the booming local pharmaceutical market.