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Novartis (NVS) Reportedly Looking to Sell Its Business Units

Per a Bloomberg report, Swiss pharma giant Novartis NVS is contemplating selling its ophthalmology and respiratory franchises.

While there has been no communication from the company on the same, Novartis has been looking to transform its business for quite some time now and these plans could be a step forward in the same direction.

Novartis had earlier stated that it would focus on strengthening its solid position in five core therapeutic areas (Hematology, Solid Tumors, Immunology, Neuroscience and Cardiovascular).

The company earlier announced plans to spin off Sandoz into a new publicly traded standalone company following a strategic review. Due to industry-wide price competition among generic pharmaceutical companies and consolidation of buyers, Sandoz experienced significant declines in sales and profits, particularly in the United States. The spin-off is likely to be completed by the first half of 2023.

The separation will enable Novartis to focus better on its legacy pharmaceutical business. Novartis had earlier spun off its eye care division, Alcon into a new company.

Novartis’ ophthalmology franchise is primarily dependent on Lucentis, which the company markets with Roche RHHBY. However, Lucentis sales are declining in Europe and Japan due to biosimilar launches. The uptake of recently approved Beovu, another ophthalmology drug, has not been encouraging due to concerns over potential side effects.

Per the report, the ophthalmology business alone could fetch about $5 billion.

Novartis’ respiratory franchise is primarily dependent on Xolair, which is also facing stiff competition.  Novartis has a collaboration with Roche for Xolair

Shares of Novartis have lost 4.5% so far this year against the industry’s growth of 4.3%.

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Novartis is shifting its portfolio of medicines toward biologics and technology platforms. Novartis has prioritized three newer platforms – gene & cell therapy, radioligand therapy and xRNA – for continued investment in new R&D capabilities and manufacturing scale, in addition to two established platforms in chemistry and biotherapeutics.

In 2021, Novartis sold its 33% stake in Roche for $20.7 billion. The company has been a shareholder of RHHBY since May 2001. Novartis was reportedly looking for strategic acquisitions in the pharma space using the cash proceeds from its stake sale in Roche.

Novartis’ performance in the third quarter was pretty ho-hum as earnings beat by a penny but revenues lagged due to generic competition. With the planned spinoff of Sandoz, Novartis is looking to become a pure-play pharmaceutical company. Drugs like Cosentyx, Entresto, Kesimpta, Zolgensma, Kisqali and Leqvio should continue to fuel growth and offset the impact of generic competition.

Novartis currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).  A couple of better-ranked stocks in the healthcare space include Merck MRK and Biogen BIIB. Both the stocks carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Over the past 30 days, earnings estimates for Merck have increased by 7 cents to $7.38. Merck also surpassed estimates in all the trailing four quarters, with the average being 16.07%.

Over the past 30 days, earnings estimates for Biogen have increased by 30 cents to $16.98. Biogen also surpassed estimates in three of the trailing four quarters, with the average being 7.02%.

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