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Novartis to buy back US$5b in shares
[Zurich] Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis announced Wednesday a US$5 billion share buyback even though competition from generics ate away at sales and earnings last year.
Net profit plunged by 62 per cent over the previous year to US$6.7 billion, although 2015 earnings were doped by a series of sales of units to rivals as Novartis refocused its portfolio.
Compared against continuing operations, net profit was down by 5 per cent, and up by 1.0 per cent when currency fluctuations were stripped out.
Sales from continuing operations were up by 6 per cent in volume, but in value dipped by 2 per cent to US$48.5 billion, although they were flat when corrected for currency changes.
"Novartis delivered a solid performance in 2016," chief executive Joseph Jimenez said in a statement, noting that sales of new products helped absorb the loss of exclusivity in the United States on its Gleevec chemotherapy drug.
Sales of new products jumped by 20 per cent.
Meanwhile Novartis said it would eye options for its ophthalmological division Alcon, including a stock market listing.
For 2017, Novartis said it expected sales to remain stable on a constant currency basis as generics continued to nibble away at its older products.
The company said it would increase its dividend by 2 per cent to to 2.75 Swiss francs (S$3.9) per share.
It announced a share buyback of US$5 billion "as a sign in the growth prospects of Novartis".
Following the news, Novartis saw its share price inch up 0.9 per cent to 70.20 Swiss francs a piece in early morning trading, as the Swiss stock exchange's main SMI index rose nearly 0.6 per cent.