Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS; SIX:NOVN), a Swiss-based biopharmaceutical company, has announced its intention to spin out its Alcon eye care business but will retain the pharmaceutical ophthalmology portfolio. The decision comes after a year-long strategic review which examined a number of potential options. Alcon’s surgical and vision care lines are understood to have provided $6.7 billion in sales in 2017, while pharmaceutical lines in ophthalmology provided $4.5 billion in sales in the same period. It is expected that the new company will be head-quartered in Switzerland, with planned dual listings on the SIX Swiss Exchange and NYSE. The new entity will have a headcount in excess of 20,000 employees.
Novartis paid an estimated $52 billion to acquire Alcon in 2011 however, more recent estimates of Alcon’s value appear to range between $15 and $23 billion. Despite such, Novartis are understood to be consolidating their position in pharmaceuticals under their new CEO, Vasant Narasimhan. The move is seen as further focusing Novartis on their pharmaceutical pipeline while Alcon, as an outside entity, will focus more on the development of its devices business which include IOLs and stents among others. Novartis hold a strong position in ophthalmology, further strengthened through the recent acquisition of European rights to Spark Therapeutics’ gene therapy, Luxturna. for LCA. In addition, the company has already suggested that their latest anti-VEGF product, “brolucizumab”, for the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macular edema has the potential to reach blockbuster status, subject to regulatory approval.
The new Alcon spin-out will be headed by its current COO, David Endicott, while current Alcon CEO Mike Ball will become Chairman of the new entity. Commenting on the spin-out transaction, Novartis chairman Joerg Reinhardt stated, “this transaction would allow our shareholders to benefit from potential future successes of a more focused Novartis and a stand-alone Alcon, which would become a publicly traded global medtech leader based here in Switzerland.”