Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis AG is thought to be considering selling its minority 20% stake in sector rival Roche Holding AG, according to a report published today by German daily Handelsblatt.

Company CEO Daniel Vasella told the paper that Novartis is no longer talking to Roche about a cooperation. He explained: "It wouldn't be right for Novartis to let so much money be blocked long-term if there shouldn't be any cooperation and no common interests with Roche.

"In such a case, a sale with a gain would seem appropriate," he said, adding: "We can't force anyone into a cooperation."

Vasella stressed however that Novartis does not have any immediate plans to sell its stake, and is under no financial pressure to divest. Furthermore, Vasella expects the company to witness sales growth of more than 10% annually over the next five years, without making acquisitions and despite the delayed launch of several key products this year.

The group said yesterday [Monday] that further details of its strategy and a review of its pharmaceutical research and development portfolio will be presented today [Tuesday] by the head of global development, Joerg Reinhardt; David Epstein, global head of oncology and Paul Herrling, global head of research.