NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Novartis (NVS - Get Report) has committed to returning $5 billion to shareholders through a two-year share repurchase program, a branch of its strategy to "strengthen portfolio and capital allocation." The pharmaceutical company will also accelerate growth through significant research and development and diversification into high-growth treatments such as those for skin and heart disease.
"Novartis has reached an inflection point, having fully integrated Alcon and reduced debt," said CEO Joseph Jimenez in a statement. The Basel-based business assumed majority control of ophthalmological company Alcon in 2011 after acquiring outstanding shares from Nestle.
"We are now further sharpening the execution of our strategy to strengthen shareholder value through science-based innovation in high-growth segments of healthcare where we have the global scale, competitive advantage and the right capabilities to win," continued Jimenez.
As part of its growth strategy, the company expects to realize 3% to 4% productivity gains per year through to 2015, by consolidating its global research sites and streamlining the manufacturing process.Novartis also anticipates entering phase III trials for its potential gamechanger, the breast cancer pill LEE011, in December. Rival Pfizer (PFE) is currently undergoing phase III trials for its own pill, palbociclib. By mid-morning, shares were 0.9% higher to $79.88, adding to 26.2% gains in the year to date. --Written by Keris Alison Lahiff.