Novartis sweetens investors with $5 billion share buyback

ZURICH Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:23am EST

The logo of Swiss drugmaker Novartis is seen at its headquarters in Basel October 22, 2013. Novartis raised its full-year outlook for a second quarter in a row on Tuesday due to the ongoing absence of generic competition to its best-selling blood pressure pill Diovan. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The logo of Swiss drugmaker Novartis is seen at its headquarters in Basel October 22, 2013. Novartis raised its full-year outlook for a second quarter in a row on Tuesday due to the ongoing absence of generic competition to its best-selling blood pressure pill Diovan.

Credit: Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis (NOVN.VX) offered a sweetener to investors on Friday by starting a $5 billion share buyback program, but shied away from announcing any radical surgery to its structure.

The Basel-based pharmaceutical firm is carrying out a broad review of operations following the departure of veteran chairman and one-time CEO Daniel Vasella, and is considering options for its non-core assets that lack the scale to become world leaders.

In a statement on Friday before an investor day in London, Novartis said it would allocate capital to a strong and growing dividend, bolt on buys and a $5 billion share buyback to take place over two years.

Expectations had run high that Novartis might use Friday's event to reveal whether it plans to take the scalpel to further parts of its businesses. But the drugmaker gave no indication of its plans in the statement.

It said it would continue to cut costs to improve productivity by consolidating its research sites worldwide and expects to deliver roughly 3-4 percent in productivity gains per year through 2015.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley, editing by Elizabeth Piper)