Novartis Weighs Sale of Dermatology Generics Business

Updated on
  • Sale of dermatology assets could fetch up to $1.5 billion
  • Assets may draw interest from buyout firms, strategic buyers

Novartis AG is considering a sale of its dermatology generics drugs business as the Swiss health-care giant seeks to shed some of its less profitable treatments and focus on growth areas such as cancer, according to people familiar with the matter.

The business, which is mostly based in the U.S., could be valued at between $1 billion to $1.5 billion and attract both private equity firms and other drugmakers, the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private. The assets for sale include skin-care treatments and some manufacturing facilities, the people said.

Novartis is working with a financial adviser on the potential disposal, which is at a preliminary stage, the people said. No final decisions have been made and the company could still decide against a sale, the people said. A representative for the Basel, Switzerland-based company declined to comment.

Novartis shares rose 1 percent to 83 Swiss francs at 2:30 p.m. in Zurich. They have risen 12 percent this year, valuing the company at about 217 billion ($216.5 billion) Swiss francs.

Novartis this week agreed to buy Advanced Accelerator Applications SA for about $3.9 billion in cash, snapping up a radiopharmaceutical company whose drugs are used to diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer. Its generics business Sandoz is suffering in the U.S. amid pricing pressure. On Oct. 24, it warned that sales at the unit may see a slight decrease this year.

Novartis has built Sandoz’s dermatology business via acquisitions. It bought U.S.-based Fougera Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $1.5 billion in 2012 in a deal to become the top seller of generic skin medications. Last year, it acquired the AmLactin skin-care brands from Minnesota-based Upsher-Smith Laboratories Inc. for an undisclosed amount.

The generics industry is witnessing a wave of consolidation. Closely held Amneal Pharmaceuticals LLC agreed to buy Impax Laboratories Inc. last month to create the fifth-largest maker of generic drugs in the U.S. Ani Pharmaceuticals Inc., a U.S. specialty drugmaker, is exploring a sale after attracting takeover interest, people familiar with the matter have said.

— With assistance by James Paton

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