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Alcon/CIBA Vision Integration Going Smoothly, Execs Say

06/17/2011 0 Comments

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Business News

SALT LAKE CITY—The integration of CIBA Vision into Alcon's vision care business is moving along smoothly since CIBA parent Novartis (NYSE: NVS) acquired the remaining shares of Alcon in a deal that closed in mid-April, executives of the new Alcon vision care operation said this week at a press briefing in conjunction with Optometry's Meeting here.

Jim Murphy, who had headed Alcon's eyecare operation before the deal closed and is now vice president/general manager, vision care, said the merger makes Alcon the second-largest division of Novartis. The new Alcon vision care operation—including its management, marketing and sales functions—will be headquartered at Alcon's Fort Worth, Texas, facility, a move expected to be completed by October. CIBA's former headquarters in the Atlanta area will be retained to house research and development, IT and some other operations, Murphy noted.

Alcon's eyecare operations are now segmented into three business units: vision care, which combines CIBA Vision's contact lens and lens care products with Alcon's CL solutions products; pharmaceutical, which now incorporates CIBA's over-the-counter dry-eye products; and surgical. Murphy said each segment will have a dedicated sales force, with eyecare customers expected to see little change in ordering, sales support and customer service. The company now sells its products in 180 countries, with operations in 75 countries.

Research and development of eyecare products remains a key focus for Alcon, Murphy stressed. The company plans to spend $4 billion on eyecare R&D over the next five years, he said.

"With this integration, we are utilizing the best of both companies, optimizing our commercial platforms across all eyecare categories, to produce incremental and sustainable growth," Murphy declared.

Francesco Balestrieri, formerly CIBA's president, Americas region, is now vice president, Americas, vision care, of the new Alcon, and Rick Weisbarth, OD, who had been CIBA's VP/global head, professional development and partnerships, plays a similar role at Alcon as head of professional affairs, vision care. Asked about the company's marketing and sales leadership as well as other executive roles, Murphy told VMail Alcon is not yet ready to announce a full organizational chart.

All three Alcon executives stressed that relationships with eyecare professionals remain a key priority for the newly merged company. Murphy said Alcon's commitment to product innovation and customer service will benefit ECPs for both the short and long terms. "At the end of the day, or business comes down to our relationship with the ECPs, and we don't see that going away," he stated.

Under the Alcon umbrella, the two firms' product brands—including CIBA's AirOptix, Dailies and Fresh Look CL portfolio as well as the Opti-Free and Clear Care CL solutions lines—will all be retained. Although both corporate names, Alcon and CIBA, are represented at separate booths here at Optometry's Meeting, going forward the company will exhibit under the unified Alcon umbrella at future industry events, beginning with the American Academy of Optometry meeting in Boston in October.

Helping to boost Alcon executives' optimism for the newly merged company's prospects going forward, Balestrieri told VMail that through April, contact lens sales have been running 4.5 percent ahead of the same period last year, a growth rate he expects will continue for the rest of 2011.

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