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Novartis CEO plays down prospects for Actelion bid: Blick

VIENNA Novartis Chief Executive Joe Jimenez has played down suggestions the Swiss drugmaker could bid for Swiss biotech group Actelion, which is in talks with U.S. healthcare group Johnson & Johnson about a transaction.

Asked by Swiss Sunday newspaper SonntagsBlick whether Novartis could emerge as a white knight, he said: “We have always said that we will concentrate on complementary acquisitions in the range of $2 billion to $5 billion.” He did not elaborate.

Actelion is worth nearly $20 billion at Friday’s closing price.

Jimenez said Novartis was still gauging what impact President-elect Donald Trump could have on the U.S. healthcare system and was watching what his priorities would be.

“Less has been invested in the United States in recent years, probably because of high corporate taxes. If these are now cut, as is being signaled, that is certainly positive,” he said.

He said Novartis should have intervened earlier and more decisively at its Alcon eyecare business, which Novartis bought in 2010 and had flourished until 2014, when innovation waned.

“We are disappointed that the turnaround is taking so long but I am convinced that the new management will get the job done. As far as the future of the business is concerned we are keeping all options open,” he was quoted as saying.

(Reporting by Michael Shields; editing by Francois Murphy)