Is Novartis shopping its Roche stake?

Want a piece of Roche? If you're ready to write a $9 billion check, you might talk to Novartis. Rumors hit the market yesterday that Novartis might be looking to offload its ownership stake in crosstown rival Roche as a way to raise money for its buyout of the rest of eye-care company Alcon.

The piece of Roche accounts for 33 percent of voting rights and is worth about 9.6 billion Swiss francs right now, or $9.12 billion at today's exchange rate. That would be about a fourth of what Novartis has agreed to pay Nestle for its 77 percent stake, Reuters reminds us, with an additional $11.2 billion in stock offered to minority shareholders. Yes, that's the bid that Alcon directors have deemed "grossly inadequate."

Novartis wouldn't comment, saying it doesn't address market rumors. As Reuters notes, the company said last month that it was planning to fund its Alcon buy with cash on hand plus up to $16 billion in debt financing. Has it changed its mind and decided to raise more cash by selling Roche stock?

- read the Reuters piece