September 11, 2018 / 7:14 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Alcon picks Geneva over Texas for new HQ

* Alcon picks Switzerland's Geneva over Forth Worth for HQ

* Novartis cites business-friendly Swiss policies

* Texas to remain major site for eyecare unit post spin-off (Adds detail about headquarters in Geneva, comment from CEO)

By John Miller

ZURICH, Sept 11 (Reuters) - The headquarters of Alcon, the eyecare unit of Novartis which will be spun off to shareholders in 2019, will move from the division's longtime corporate home in the Dallas suburbs to the Swiss city of Geneva, Novartis said in a statement on Tuesday.

Alcon's current global divisional headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, will remain a major site but the company plans to employ up to 700 people in tax-friendly Switzerland after the spin-off, which aims to create a separate publicly listed company.

The holding company will be based in the central canton of Fribourg, with additional Swiss sites in the towns of Rotkreuz and Schaffhausen.

Alcon was founded in 1945 as a small pharmacy in Fort Worth and its growth into one of the largest ophthalmic surgical device and contact lens makers helped put Texas's medtech industry on the map.

But Geneva, a lakeside city near the French border that is home to global organisations like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, won out as Alcon's new corporate headquarters, with Novartis citing Switzerland's "progressive business climate and innovation-friendly policies".

"Being headquartered in Geneva will help further increase Alcon's global scale and reach to better serve our customers," said David Endicott, Alcon's new chief executive officer.

Novartis bought Alcon as part of a series of transactions totalling more than $50 billion as former Chairman Daniel Vasella sought to build the Swiss drug company into a European healthcare giant along the lines of U.S.-based Johnson & Johnson .

Current Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan is continuing a years-long process to unwind Vasella's empire, narrowing Novartis's focus to prescription drugs.

Alcon, with just over $6 billion in sales in 2017 from contact lenses, solutions and surgical devices, was no longer a good fit for Novartis, Narasimhan concluded.

Long beset by falling revenue, Alcon has invested in new products, sales and marketing over the last two years to reinvigorate growth.

Novartis Chairman Joerg Reinhardt said in June the division could be worth between $20-30 billion as a listed company once it is spun off.

Reporting by John Miller Editing by Maria Sheahan and Kirsten Donovan

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