Novartis launches $5bn share buyback and mulls spin-off of eyecare business Alcon

Shruti Tripathi Chopra
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Alcon has slumped to a $120m loss as fourth-quarter sales dipped (Source: Getty)

Novartis may spin off its struggling Alcon eye care business as it looks at ways to boost growth

The Swiss drugmaker also plans to buy back up to $5bn (£4bn) of shares over the next year in a bid to return to growth by 2018.

Alcon has slumped to a $120m loss as fourth-quarter sales dipped. Novartis could consider floating, selling or spinning off Alcon, chief executive Joe Jimenez said today.

"We've not ruled anything out, all options are on the table," he said.

Jimenez added that 2017 is going be a challenging year fo the firm. It hopes to resume growth next year as demand for new drugs such as psoriasis medication Cosentyx grows.

"Unfortunately, 2017 is going to look a lot like 2016," Jimenez said. "We expect the next growth phase of this company to begin toward the end of this year."

Read more: UK drug strategy has failed and misses out on a growing market

Novartis' fourth-quarter core net income remained unchanged at $2.66bn, just under the $2.72bn expected by analysts in a Reuters poll.

The firm's sales fell two per cent to $12.3bn after revenue from its blood cancer medicine Gleevec dropped by 37 percent to $764m. Also, sales of its heart failure drug Entresto stood at $170m, short of Novartis's target of $200m.

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