Novartis profits down 7 percent in 2011

Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis said on Wednesday its net profit dropped seven percent in 2011 to $9.2 billion.

Novartis profits down 7 percent in 2011
Andrew Hecht (File)

Net sales rose 16 percent to $58.6 billion and operating income fell five percent to $11 billion.

The company noted an exceptional charge of $1.9 billion for the year.

In its outlook for 2012 Novartis said it expected sales to be in line with 2011 “despite Diovan patent expiry and Tekturna/Rasilez decline.”

Core operating income margin in constant currencies was expected to be slightly below the 2011 figure of 27.2 percent, the group said.

In the fourth quarter of last year operating income dropped 47 percent to
$1.2 billion due to net exceptional charges totalling $1.5 billion.

Net sales for this period increased 4.1 percent to $14.7 billion.

“Novartis achieved solid sales growth and strong operating leverage in the fourth quarter and for the year as a whole,” said Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez in a statement.

Jimenez said the company had achieved 15 key approvals this year and improved core margins through targeted productivity initiatives.

“However, we experienced some disappointments in the fourth quarter, with Tekturna/Rasilez and with the need to improve our quality standards at some manufacturing sites,” he added.

At the beginning of January Novartis announced it was to axe almost 2,000 posts in the US following the expiry of its patent for leading hypertension drug Diovan.

The Basel-based company previously cut a similar number of jobs in late October, mainly in Switzerland and the US.

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Switzerland’s Novartis to help make Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine

Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Novartis said Friday it had signed an initial agreement to help produce the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19, as countries scramble to boost supplies.

Switzerland's Novartis to help make Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine
Novartis will help manufacture Pfizer vaccine. Photo by AFP.

The rare act of cooperation — in an industry usually marked by cut-throat competition — comes after French pharma group Sanofi announced earlier this week that it would also team up with rivals Pfizer and BioNTech to help produce 125 million doses of their jab.

The two-dose vaccine, which is based on mRNA technology, has been shown to be around 95 percent effective and has been approved for use by the World Health Organization and in some 50 countries.

But it is in limited supply as nations around the world race to immunise their populations against the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 2.2 million people in just over a year.

Novartis said in a statement that it would use its sterilised manufacturing facilities at its site in Stein, Switzerland to help produce the Pfizer-BioNTech jabs.

Under the agreement, the company said it would “take bulk mRNA active ingredient from BioNTech and fill this into vials under aseptic conditions for shipment back to BioNTech for their distribution to healthcare system customers around the world”.

Once a final agreement is reached, Novartis said it expected to begin production in the second quarter of the year, with initial shipment of finished product expected in the third quarter.

Steffen Lang, Head of Novartis Technical Operations, stressed that the company was “committed to leverage our manufacturing capabilities to help support the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics around the world”.

“We expect this to be the first of a number of such agreements,” he said in the statement.

Novartis said it was already in “advanced discussions” with a number of other companies about with other production tasks, including of mRNA, therapeutic protein and raw material production for Covid vaccines and therapeutics.