MannKind (MNKD) used its quarterly conference call Monday night to tamp down any concerns about the firing of Sanofi (SNY) CEO Chris Viehbacher causing problems for the Afrezza diabetes partnership ahead of the expected first quarter 2015 launch.
Not everyone shares MannKind's confidence. Diabetic Investor's David Kliff, a longtime Afrezza skeptic, believes Viehbacher was the driving force behind the MannKind partnership and pushed the deal against the wishes of others at Sanofi who didn't want anything to do with the inhaled insulin device. Now that Viehbacher is out at Sanofi, Kliff says the Afrezza commercial launch might be in trouble even before it starts.
Kliff, writing today to his subscribers:
With Viehbacher now gone and Sanofi expected to bring in a change agent with diabetes experience it's quite possible that this new person could reexamine the deal and decide it's just not worth the effort, not to mention the capital investment needed. A critical date here is November 20 when the company holds their analyst day, a day which according to MannKind management Afrezza will be big part of, the star of the show so to speak. Many observers believe that Sanofi will announce Viehbacher's replacement as early as this week. Given the timing of all these events it will be interesting to see if the new person, only in charge a short time, makes the first of several changes and knocks Afrezza out if it's starring role.
Must Read: Warren Buffett's Top 10 Dividend Stocks
On its conference call last night, MannKind executives responded to questions about Sanofi's commitment to Afrezza post Viehbacher's exit.
"While certainly Viehbacher was a supporter of the Afrezza partnership, I have to say that the entire Sanofi organization has embraced this opportunity with much enthusiasm as we've seen in the U.S. and in France and in Germany. So we are still looking forward to a long and successful partnership. And yes, we have not seen any other impact on that," said MannKind President Hakan Edstrom.
As you'd expect, MannKind used most of the call to discuss steps it and Sanofi were taking to move Afrezza closer to launch early next year.
Kliff isn't buying MannKind's line: