ZURICH Dec 8 Swiss drugmaker Novartis
can spend $4-6 billion per year on acquisitions to strengthen
its core pharma, eyecare and generics businesses or its three
smaller units, its chief executive officer said in an interview
"Novartis' cashflow is big enough each year for us to
increase the dividend for shareholders and at the same time do
bolt-on buys. We can spend $4-6 billion a year on these," CEO
Joe Jimenez told Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Sonntag.
He said Novartis could spend $2-4 billion per acquisition on
targets that would strengthen one of its three big units.
"For the smaller units, there can also be bolt-on buys, but
they would be smaller," he said.
The Basel-based company is in the middle of a broad review
of operations following the departure of veteran chairman and
one-time CEO Daniel Vasella. It took the first step last month
by selling its blood transfusion testing unit to Spain's Grifols
SA for $1.7 billion.
Jimenez said at the group's investor day three weeks ago he
would be "disappointed" if a portfolio review was not complete
within a year and repeated Novartis was considering all options
for its subscale businesses. He was silent about any future
plans to sell off or bulk up its business.
Asked whether he shared Novartis board member Pierre
Landolt's view that a merger of Novartis and cross-town rival
Roche would make sense, Jimenez said in the interview,
"I believe Switzerland is benefitting from the fact that it has
two very successful pharma companies."
He said Roche and Novartis had very different strategies,
with Roche being a pure pharma player and Novartis being much
Vasella's exit at Novartis had fuelled speculation that it
might sell its multi-bilion dollar stake in
Jimenez also told the newspaper that a possible free trade
agreement between Switzerland and India should absolutely
include clauses on protecting intellectual property rights.
Drug groups face competition from cheaper Indian generics.
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Louise Ireland)