Novartis is reportedly considering selling off its stake in Roche worth nearly $14 billion, though sources say that no deal is yet imminent.

Industry observers have debated the possibility of the move for some time, but Swiss publication Die Sonntagszeitung reported over the weekend that it has now become a high priority, with Novartis moving to line up possible buyers for the 33.3 percent stake in its rival.

According to the publication, the drugmaker is currently seeking advice from investment banks on the sale, which is being driven by Chairman Joerg Reinhardt’s desire to use the investment for more strategic purposes, though what these might be remains unclear at this stage.

"Novartis is in a time of need, having had setbacks with both Alcon and Entresto, and investor sentiment is languishing," said Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson, who also said acquisitions in the biotech or ophthalmology sectors are "distinctly possible”, according to Reuters.

Both companies have so far declined to comment.