Novartis Chairman Says $10 Billion Deal in Reach

Novartis AG Chairman Joerg Reinhardt said a $10 billion purchase is possible as the drugmaker reviews its business, including units focused on animal health and vaccines.

“We will also start next week to look at our portfolio based on strategic perspectives going forward,” Reinhardt said in an interview at the company’s Basel, Switzerland, headquarters today. Bolt-on deals are attractive, and “I don’t think a $10 billion acquisition is out of reach.”

Novartis is out of the bidding for Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc., according to a person familiar with the situation. Onyx’s current valuation made it too expensive, said the person, who declined to be identified because the matter is private.

Novartis, AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer Inc. had expressed interest in Onyx, the biotechnology company said to have rebuffed an initial offer from Amgen Inc., Bloomberg reported in July. Onyx is involved with several potential purchasers, Chief Executive Officer N. Anthony Coles said Aug. 9.

Lori Melancon, a spokeswoman for Onyx, said the company wouldn’t comment on rumors and speculation. Novartis spokesman Eric Althoff also declined to comment.

Onyx rose 0.5 percent to $126.55 at 12:35 p.m. in New York, giving the company a market value of $9.29 billion.

Reviewing Businesses

Reinhardt, who took over as chairman this month, is facing investors’ calls to unwind key parts of the company his predecessor Daniel Vasella built, including a stake in Roche Holding AG, Switzerland’s other major drug company, or to jettison or reform less profitable divisions such as the vaccines business.

“Novartis is a diversified business; it will continue to be a diversified business,” Reinhardt said. “On the other hand, I believe active portfolio management is part of the strategic management of the company.”

Novartis rose 0.7 percent, to close at 68.40 Swiss francs in Zurich trading. The stock has increased 24 percent in the past year including reinvested dividends, compared with a 20 percent return for the Bloomberg Europe Pharmaceutical Index.

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