Novartis AG (NVS - Get Report) shares were outperforming the broader Swiss market in early Monday trading after the pharmaceuticals group said its CEO, Joe Jimenez, would step-down before the end of next year.

Vasant (Vas) Narasimhan, the company's chief medical officer, will replace Jimenez, who has headed the Basel-based group since 2010 and will retire in November 2018.

"Both from a professional and a personal perspective, this is the right moment to hand the leadership reins of the company to Vas," Jimenez said in a statement. "Our strong pipeline and the strategic moves we have taken to focus the company have put Novartis on a strong path for the future."

"On the personal side, after 10 wonderful years in Switzerland, my family is ready to return to Silicon Valley and the US. I'm confident that Vas will be an excellent successor," he added.

Novartis shares were marked 0.3% lower in the opening minutes of trading in Zurich, compared to a 0.55% slide for the broader SMI benchmark, to change hands at Sfr80.50 each, trimming the six-month gain to around 5.6% compared to a 7.5% decline for the Stoxx Europe TMI Pharmaceuticals index. 

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