Novartis sees significant interest in Sandoz’s generic unit

© Reuters. Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis, speaks at the Swiss pharmaceutical company’s annual press conference in Basel, Switzerland, January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) – Novartis is seeing great interest from private investors as well as other pharmaceutical companies in trading generic drugs for the Sandoz company that it plans to sell, Novartis CEO Vas Narasemhan said in a newspaper interview.

“We have seen a lot of interest from private equity firms as well as other companies in the market,” Narasemhan told Swiss newspaper Finanz und Wirtschaft.

“We need to do our work internally first so that we can make the financial statements available to some interested parties. This takes time. Within a year, we want to have clarity,” the CEO added.

The Swiss drugmaker raised the prospect of selling Sandoz in October.

All options remain open, the executive said in the interview, which was published on Saturday, including whether Sandoz should be kept within Novartis, transferred to shareholders or sold to another company.

“It would be too early to focus on one option,” Narasemhan said.

He declined to give a potential price for Sandoz, which generated $9.7 billion in revenue last year, or about 20 percent of the group’s total.

“If we are currently reading that there are bids of 10 billion or 20 billion, we should not take this seriously,” he said.

“These offers are made primarily by analysts and then by the media, not by us or the real interested parties. We have to wait for the real negotiations.”

Narasemhan said Novartis was looking to use some of the proceeds from the sale of its $21 billion stake in Roche for acquisitions, although patience is required due to high market valuations.

He said the company was interested in acquisitions in areas such as cardiovascular disease, immunology, neurology, hematology and oncology.

But Narasemhan declined to comment on rumors linking Novartis to US biotech company El Neelam or Swiss drugmaker Vivor Pharma.

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