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Alcon tops $28 billion market cap in decade's biggest Swiss stock deal

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By John Miller

ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss eyecare company Alcon made its debut on the SIX Swiss Exchange on Tuesday with a market capitalisation of more than $25 billion after a shareholder spin-off from drugmaker Novartis, the Alpine nation’s biggest stock deal in a decade.

Alcon shares traded at 57.80 Swiss francs at 0800 GMT after opening at 55 Swiss francs per share, reaching a market cap of some 28 billion Swiss francs (21.46 billion pounds).

Novartis shares, which closed on Tuesday at 95 francs, fell to 85.50 francs. Investors got one Alcon share for each five Novartis shares they held.

Alcon, a $7.1 billion-per-year group which began as a Fort Worth, Texas, pharmacy in 1945, suffered flagging sales and profit before Novartis swapped out management in 2016 to help arrest the decline. Geneva-based Alcon now aims to strengthen its rank as the biggest ophthalmic surgery device maker and No. 2 maker of contact lenses and solutions behind Johnson & Johnson.

“We are poised to achieve sustainable growth and create long-term shareholder value as a standalone company,” Alcon Chief Executive David Endicott said.

Giving Alcon to shareholders helps cap Novartis’s years-long retreat from being a broad healthcare company, as Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan focuses on prescription drugs and specialised, costly treatments like gene therapy.

“We continue to reimagine ourselves as a leading medicines company powered by breakthrough medicines, data science and advanced therapy platforms,” Narasimhan said in a statement.

(Reporting by John Miller, editing by John Revill and Michael Shields)

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