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Novartis: launches share buyback plan, pipeline progressing

( - Swiss drugmaker Novartis on Tuesday took action to bolster a stock price beaten down by worries about its pipeline, saying it would buy back up to 2.
5 billion dollars of shares as a show of "confidence" in its growth.

Starting immediately, the buyback will last until the first half of 2021, supported by the company's liquidity and "strong" balance sheet, Novartis said at its annual investor meeting today.

At the event, the biopharmaceutical group also said that it would increse the size of its productivity program from 2021, from 1.5 billion dollars to two billion dollars.

In addition, the company is on track to deliver two billion dollars in cost savings by year-end, it pointed out.

Regarding its pipeline, Novartis said it currently has 116 assets in phase I or II, and 49 in Phase III, which is expected to fuel growth over the medium-to long-term, while driving margin expansion.

The margin of its innovative medicines unit - which includes the heart failure drug Entresto and psoriaisis drug Cosentyx - is expected to reach a percentage in the high 30s over the medium term, it added.

Investors welcomed the announcements, with the Novartis share up over 1% in Zurich on Tuesday morning. The stock has fallen by 10% this year.

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