Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan said the drugmaker has financial firepower for acquisitions even with net debt of $26 billion, though the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to value takeover candidates, reported Investing.com.
"We generate a high free cash flow that allows us to not only finance our dividend, but to direct capital to other purposes," Narasimhan told Neue Zuercher Zeitung.
Still, he suggested that "acquisitions have slowed recently from a structural perspective" during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Narasimhan said Novartis is not interested in selling its Sandoz unit for now, but rather continuing work to boost its sales and profit margins squeezed by US pricing pressure.
"We believe at this time that we can do this best with Sandoz within the Novartis group," he told the newspaper.
Beyond recent legal settlements in corruption cases that topped $1 billion, Narasimhan believes safety problems that emerged with new eye medicine Beovu have cost Novartis shares 10% of their value. "Challenge No. 1 was Beovu's launch," he said.
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