Jan 29 - The CEO of Novartis tells Reuters he's looking at options for three smaller businesses to bring them in line with the Swiss drugmaker's world-leading pharmaceutical operations. As Joel Flynn reports it's part of a review due to be completed by the end of summer.
Novartis has fingers in many pies. It's a strategy the Swiss drugmaker has had to defend in the past. And it's currently reviewing its portfolio which could lead to changes at three smaller operations. CEO Joseph Jimenez. SOUNDBITE: Novartis, Joseph Jimenez, CEO, saying (English): "We have three very important assets at Novartis. The Pharmaceutical business, the Alcon eye care business and the generic's business. Those are businesses that are at least 10 billion dollars, they're globally number one or number two in their segments and they're really very good competitors. We have three smaller businesses - Vaccines, Animal Health, and over the counter drugs. These are businesses that are good in their own right but they don't yet have global scale." Novartis' fourth quarter net sales were up 2% to more than $15bln. Foreign currency swings took 11% off the firm's operating income. But shares continued to rise - they've gained almost 24% since last year. Unlike many of its competitors, Novartis hasn't quite scaled the "patent cliff" yet. The generic version of its best-selling blood pressure pill Diovan has been delayed. SOUNDBITE: CEO Novartis, Joseph Jimenez, saying (English): "We had expected Diovan to go generic in 2013 and because the company that has the right to launch first has not yet received FDA approval it turned out to be a little bit of a windfall in 2013 but it does hurt 2014 because we're assuming right now that Diovan will have that competition and probably at the end of the first quarter." Despite the lower than expected profit Jimenez's salary remained steady at almost $15 million. It was cut last year before a Swiss vote for shareholders to limit executive rewards, when much public anger was directed at the drug-maker. Novartis is now banking on products like the multiple sclerosis pill Gilenya and cancer drug Afinitor to offset patent losses.