Novartis has no plans to sell Sandoz: chairman

FILE PHOTO: Swiss drugmaker Novartis' logo is seen at the company's plant in the northern Swiss town of Stein, Switzerland October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis has no plans to sell all or parts of its Sandoz generics business, Chairman Joerg Reinhardt said in a newspaper interview, saying it was keeping its options open.

“Sales are not planned at the moment. There are also no specific considerations that would have the goal of separating Sandoz,” he was quoted by Finanz und Wirtschaft as saying when asked about prospects of a sale or spin-off.

Asked whether Sandoz could grow via acquisitions, he said: “As far as the development of Sandoz is concerned, I do not want to exclude anything. We want to be competitive in all areas in which we operate. Margins of 20 percent or more are possible and that is quite attractive.”

On other subjects, Reinhardt said Novartis’s group margin had room to improve and it would focus more on productivity. “But primarily we want to grow. The margin is a secondary goal. In the pharmaceuticals business sales and profit growth are in the forefront,” he said.

Growth would be broad based thanks to investments in new technologies and its own product pipeline. Cell and gene therapies would make up perhaps 10-15 percent of its portfolio in a decade.

He expected sales in China would double in five years.

Reinhardt described Novartis’s 33 percent voting stake in rival Roche as “a financial stake with a strategic component”, and said the two Basel-based companies would continue to cooperate on products.

He declined to comment on whether Novartis had bid for U.S. group Spark Therapeutics, which Roche has agreed to buy. Novartis would continue to market Spark product Luxturna in Europe even after a Roche takeover, he said.

Amid a political debate about drug prices in the United States, he played down prospects for state controls.

Reporting by Michael Shields, editing by John Revill