Novartis has announced the launch of a $5 billion share buyback, as it continues to "pursue an aggressive productivity agenda".

Speaking to investors in London, chief executive Joseph Jimenez said that "we are now further sharpening the execution of our strategy to strengthen shareholder value through science-based innovation in high-growth segments of healthcare where we have the global scale, competitive advantage and the right capabilities to win". The buyback, part of a $11 billion plan announced in 2008, will start immediately and be executed over two years.

Novartis added that it will continue its cost-cutting programme "which has offset generic erosion and growth investments over the past two years". These ongoing initiatives include "leveraging scale in procurement, consolidating research sites around the world and optimising the manufacturing footprint".

In terms of R&D, the company said it is "thoroughly reviewing its assets", and has established "new platforms in areas where it sees significant potential for future sales growth". These include dermatology, heart failure, respiratory and cell therapy.

The oncology pipeline is still clearly of importance of Novartis which notes that it includes "an industry-leading 24 ongoing pivotal trials exploring 16 new products and indications".