© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A sign marks the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

By Ludwig Burger and Paul Arnold

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Sandoz plans to launch at least five additional biologic drugs, its CEO Richard Saynor said, as the generics drugs business of Switzerland’s Novartis (SIX:) works to enhance its investor appeal ahead of its market debut next month.

Its launch ambitions come as Novartis shareholders are widely expected to sign off on the Sandoz spin-off at an extraordinary general meeting on Friday.

Sandoz, whose first day of trading is scheduled for Oct. 4, has previously said its development pipeline has 25 future biosimilars, cheaper versions of off-patent biologic drugs made from modified living cells, five of which it aims to bring to market over the next two years.

“When I joined (in 2019), there were less than eight biologics in the pipeline. Today, there’s 25. And that journey will continue. I’ll be happier when it’s over 30,” Saynor told Reuters in an interview.

Sandoz is currently the world’s second-largest maker of biosimilars behind Pfizer (NYSE:). Saynor said dethroning the U.S. pharma giant, whose focus is on developing new drugs rather than copying others, is “very much” his goal.

Deutsche Bank estimates that Sandoz, which accounted for 11% of Novartis’ group operating profit in 2022, is likely to have a market value of $11-$13 billion, with brokerage Berenberg expecting a $17-$26 billion valuation range.

Saynor said new biosimilar product launches in Europe and the United States, as blockbuster drugs lose patent protection, were key to reaching the company’s growth and margin targets.

The existing production network and sales force can absorb foreseeable launches, resulting in sales growing much faster than costs, he added.

“Whatever we launch, it’s accretive to our business,” he said, adding that major takeover deals were not on his agenda.

Sandoz, which generated more than $9 billion in revenue last year, needs biosimilars to boost profitability, which has been weighed down by higher marketing expenses and cost inflation.

The more profitable biosimilars currently account for only about a fifth of sales. The rest of the business is dominated by conventional chemical drugs, which are under price pressure.

The Swiss company has said that adjusted core profit margins would likely be 18-19% this year, down from 21.3% in 2022, but it aims for margins to rebound to between 24% to 26% by 2028.

Sales should grow by a “mid-single digit” percentage over the period, it has said.

Among the biotech mega-sellers that Sandoz is seeking to copy are Biogen (NASDAQ:)’s multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri, AbbVie (NYSE:)’s rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira, Amgen (NASDAQ:)’s bone cancer drug Prolia, also known as Xgeva, and Bayer (OTC:) and Regeneron (NASDAQ:)’s eye drug Eylea with more than $40 billion in annual sales between them.

But companies such as Amgen, Fresenius, Organon, Teva and unlisted Boehringer Ingelheim are also competing in the biosimilars market.

Sandoz, which will be included in Switzerland’s mid-cap SMIM index, said this week it plans to launch a generic version of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:)’s anti-inflammatory drug Stelara.

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