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Novartis CEO sees 'further conversation' on Sandoz future in 18 months

BASEL, Switzerland (Reuters) - Novartis Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan said he will be ready to discuss the future of generics unit Sandoz following a revamp due to take 18 months, while still calling the business "an integral part" of the Swiss drugmaker.

"We consider Sandoz an integral part of Novartis, we're focused on transforming the business, making it an autonomous entity over the next 18 months that is able to compete as an independent unit within Novartis," Narasimhan said on a call with analysts on Wednesday. "After we complete all that, then I think we can have further conversations about where we want to head from there."

In November, Novartis said it was "completely committed" to the $10 billion-per-year generics business despite price pressure that prompted the sale of its U.S pills business, after a newspaper reported Narasimhan planned to eventually split the unit off.

(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields)