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Max Nisen

Novartis Shouldn't Play Its Ace Too Soon

Patience is the best approach to selling a Roche stake.

Sometimes disappointing shareholders is the friendliest thing a company can do.

Novartis has been sitting on a massive $12.8 billion stake in Roche since 2003. The company earlier this year said it was considering selling the stake -- at a premium or not. But Swiss newspaper Sonntagszeitung reported Monday such a sale is on hold, with Novartis reluctant to sell until it can use the cash on a big acquisition. Otherwise, shareholders might just demand Novartis give the cash to them, in buybacks or a special dividend.