Novartis, zeroing in on innovative meds, launches strategic review of India outfit

A Novartis subsidiary in India has become the target of a strategic review as the Swiss pharma focuses its efforts on newer medicines.

As part of a strategic review unveiled Friday, Novartis said it’s evaluating its 70.68% position in Novartis India Limited, a local unit listed on BSE. Based on the closing price at the end of 2023, the shares owned by the parent group were worth $161 million, according to the Swiss pharma’s annual report (PDF).

The review won’t necessarily be completed in 2024, Novartis said, and there’s no guarantee that any transaction will come out of it.

The entity handles some old, off-patent meds in bone and pain, immunology, neuroscience and other fields. For the nine months ended Dec. 31, the business recorded 2.54 billion rupees ($30.6 million) in operational revenues, down from 3.03 billion rupees during the same period in 2022. Its earnings per share declined to 28.6 rupees for the period, down from 31.7 rupees in the prior year.

In 2022, Novartis slimmed down the unit by transferring sales and distribution rights of some of its established medicines to Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories. The deal resulted in around 400 job cuts.

Earlier this year, Sanjay Murdeshwar, the managing director of Novartis India Limited, handed in his resignation, effective April 2. In his letter to the board, Murdeshwar said his “personal and progression aspirations have evolved over time,” a securities filing (PDF) showed.

Novartis India Limited is a separate entity from Novartis Healthcare Private Limited, which is a wholly owned subsidiary that’s not part of the current strategic review.

Novartis Healthcare Private Limited owns Novartis’ corporate center in India as well as a commercial organization and R&D teams that currently conduct clinical trials at more than 300 sites in the country, according to Novartis.

“Novartis remains deeply committed to India with a footprint that has expanded significantly in recent years,” the company said in a statement Friday.

All told, Novartis employs more than 8,100 people in India.

Novartis has recently put an increased emphasis on novel drugs. The Swiss pharma completed its transformation into a pure-play innovative medicines company after spinning off generics maker Sandoz in October 2023.