Novartis CEO: Drugmaker interested in 'bolt-on' acquisitions of up to $3 billion

Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez said that the drugmaker is willing to spend up to $3 billion to acquire consumer health, generic drug, biotechnology, diagnostics or veterinary assets in order to boost its business in these areas, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. "We do expect to make bolt-on acquisitions to these five platforms, and we could do that today. And when I say bolt-on, I mean anything from $1 billion to $3 billion," the executive stated.

While Jimenez declined to comment on possible takeover targets, or a timeline for such acquisitions, he suggested that the company "would take a very hard look" at any consumer brands to come on the market. Moreover, he noted that the drugmaker's Sandoz unit may benefit from additional acquisitions in the differentiated generics sector, while the company could also consider biotechnology assets with several products in development or a diagnostics business with tests to determine whether patients will respond to a particular drug or for infectious diseases.

Analysts have speculated that the company may bid for Gen-Probe, which makes tests for AIDS and the West Nile virus, and has for the past 13 years worked with Novartis to jointly develop and market tests to screen blood infections. "The diagnostics space is a very interesting space for Novartis and for many companies," Jimenez remarked, although he declined to comment on a possible Gen-Probe bid.

Despite the company's interest in pursuing bolt-on acquisitions, which would help offset anticipated losses due to generic competition for Diovan (valsartan) and Gleevec (imatinib), Jimenez said that big acquisitions aren’t essential because the company’s businesses are among the fastest-growing in the industry. In addition, the drugmaker is still working on integration following its purchase of Alcon earlier this year.

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