Novartis' desire for deals to return soon, CEO says

Novartis ($NVS) could soon be back on the acquisition trail. CEO Joe Jimenez (photo) told Swiss newspaper Aargauer Zeitung that the company's first priority is paying down $22 billion in debt, but strong cash flow should take care of that fairly quickly. And then, Novartis' appetite for deals is likely to sharpen, Reuters reports.

"We could soon be in the position to go for acquisitions again, even if they are not as big as Alcon," Jimenez told the Swiss newspaper. The Zurich-based drugmaker bought the eye-care company Alcon in a two-phase deal that wrapped up earlier this year.

Before that, Novatis snapped up other assets in smaller deals, such as the $400 million buyout of antibiotics company Protez Pharmaceuticals and the $932 million deal for Speedel Holding, its blood pressure drug partner.

Jimenez also said Novartis is on track to meet its goal of boosting sales by double-digits this year. Its margin-improvement goals are also doable, he said, measured in constant currencies. Half-year results are due July 19.

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