Novartis has completed a 3 billion Swiss franc ($2.5 billion) share buyback programme that kicked off in 2004 it said yesterday, with almost 47.6 million Novartis shares repurchased at an average price per share of CHF63.05 - corresponding to 1.74% of its total share capital.

Just over half of the repurchased shares were cancelled following the Swiss giant's Annual General Meetings in 2005 and 2006, with the remaining 22.2 million facing the same destiny at the next AGM in February 2008.

At its recent results announcement, Novartis revealed it is embarking on a fifth buyback programme to the tune of CHF 4 billion, which will be funded in part by the proceeds from the sale of its Medical Nutrition and Gerber units to Nestle.