According to an interview published Monday in the Finanz und Wirtschaft newspaper, Novartis chairman Joerg Reinhardt indicated that the company does not intend to divest its Sandoz generics business, nor any parts of it. "Sales are not planned at the moment," commented Reinhardt, adding that "there are also no specific considerations that would have the goal of separating Sandoz."
Regarding the possibility of growing Sandoz through acquisitions, Reinhardt remarked "I do not want to exclude anything," but he said Novartis wants "to be competitive in all areas in which we operate. Margins of 20 percent or more are possible and that is quite attractive."
Last September, Novartis agreed to sell parts of Sandoz's US operations to Aurobindo, including the dermatology business and the generic oral solids portfolio, for $900 million. Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan had previously said the drugmaker was considering several options for Sandoz's US business in light of price erosion and rising competition in the country.
Meanwhile, Reinhardt indicated that the Swiss drugmaker anticipates broad growth because of its investments in new technologies, as well as its own product pipeline. He also predicted that cell and gene therapies could comprise between 10 percent and 15 percent of Novartis' portfolio in a decade, while revenue in China is forecast to double in five years.
However, Reinhardt declined to say whether Novartis had submitted a bid for Spark Therapeutics before the latter company agreed to be purchased by Roche for about $4.3 billion last week (for related analysis, see ViewPoints: Roche pivots into gene therapy). He noted that Novartis will continue to market Spark's retinal dystrophy gene therapy Luxturna (voretigene neparvovec) in Europe under the terms of a partnership potentially worth more than $170 million.
The chairman also described Novartis' 33-percent voting stake in Roche as "a financial stake with a strategic component," adding that the two Swiss drugmakers would continue to cooperate on products.
Meanwhile, Novartis is moving to spin off its Alcon eye-care business, which Narasimhan recently said remains on track for the first half of the year. The drugmaker also sold its stake in a consumer healthcare joint venture to GlaxoSmithKline in March 2018 for $13 billion.
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