Swiss drugmaker Novartis is planning to buy back 4 billion Swiss francs worth of its shares and cancel approximately 34 million shares it repurchased in 2004 in order to Œreturn excess capital to its shareholders‚, according to the firm‚s chief executive Dr Daniel Vasella.

The plan will be put to shareholders at their next Annual General Meeting (AGM) on March 1, 2005. If the proposal is approved, the share capital will be reduced by 19,019,500 francs to 1,369,585,500 francs.

Vasella, said the move reflected the fact that Novartis „delivered another year of record sales and earnings in 2004 and remained one of the fastest-growing pharmaceutical companies.‰ [[21/01/05a]]