The spinoff is subject to approval from shareholder. Novartis said it planned to start buying back $billion in shares. It said the purchase would be largely funded through proceeds of its sale to GlaxoSmithKline of their consumer health joint venture, which was announced in March.

In 2011, Novartis acquired Alcon, which included surgical, vision care and ophthalmic pharmaceuticals.

In January 2016, Novartis transferred Alcon’s ophthalmic pharmaceuticals to Novartis Innovative Medicines Division. It will continue to be part of Novartis and is focused on surgical and vision care, and continues to be the global leader in eye care devices.

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan said: “We continue to execute our strategy to focus Novartis as a leading medicines company.

“Alcon has returned to a position of strength and it is time to give the business more flexibility to pursue its own growth strategy as the world’s leading eye care devices company. We will work to ensure a smooth transition for Alcon and Novartis associates while preparing for the launch of RTH258 and building our leading ophthalmology pharmaceuticals business.”

Novartis chairman Joerg Reinhardt stated that the strategic review from the company examined all the options for Alcon ranging from retention, sale, IPO to spinoff.

Reinhardt added: “The review concluded that a spinoff would be in the best interests of the company’s shareholders and the board intends to seek shareholder approval for a spinoff at the 2019 AGM.

“This transaction would allow the shareholders to benefit from potential future successes of a more focused Novartis and a standalone Alcon would become a publicly traded global medtech leader based in Switzerland.”

Mike Ball will become the chairman of Alcon, effective from 1 July 2018 and will report to Vas Narasimhan.

Ball will focus on preparing Alcon for the intended spin. Furthermore, he will begin the process of recruiting a board of directors for Alcon.