Novartis mulls IPO on China's planned int'l board

We already know Novartis ($NVS) has marked China as one of its top-priority global markets. But the Swiss drugmaker may also be looking into taking its operations there public with an IPO on Shanghai's planned international stock exchange, Reuters reports. Selling shares would finance a faster expansion and help fund potential acquisitions, giving Novartis an edge in the Big Pharma battle for Chinese market share.

Sources tell the news service that Novartis is weighing a potential public offering and consulting Chinese agencies in the process. Shanghai is preparing to launch an international board either this year or next as part of an effort to liberalize capital markets and increase the global importance of the Chinese yuan, Reuters says.

Novartis has already invested big money in China. In March, it paid $125 million for a majority stake in the vaccines maker Zhejiang Tianyuan Bio-Pharmaceutical. And like its Big Pharma rivals, it has been in a hiring frenzy as it staffs up to take advantage of increased Chinese spending on healthcare. Reuters reports the drugmaker now has more than 5,000 employees in the market and has invested more than $700 million total.

If Novartis decides to go that route, it may have to compete for a slot on the Shanghai exchange. Other international companies, including Coca-Cola and Unilever, have also said they'd be interested in a listing there. China may limit foreign listings to 10--at least initially--according to media reports. 

- see the news from Reuters