Coronavirus BRIEFING

Alcon Issues Updated COVID-19 Response, Withdraws Full Year 2020 Guidance

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GENEVA, Switzerland—Alcon (SIX/NYSE: ALC) announced a series of updates yesterday stemming from the impact of COVID-19, among them the withdrawal of its full year 2020 guidance previously disclosed on Feb. 25. The company noted, "Most countries and local municipalities have mandated or advised unprecedented measures to help contain the spread of COVID-19. These measures, which have necessitated a temporary deferral of eyecare procedures and exams in many markets, are anticipated to have an impact on Alcon’s financial results.

"The extent of this impact will depend on the duration of the pandemic, timing of global recovery and normalization of customers’ practices. Due to the challenges in forecasting the duration of the pandemic, Alcon is unable to estimate the overall ongoing impact on its financial results. The company plans to provide additional details in its first quarter earnings call scheduled for May 13, 2020.

In addition, Alcon’s board of directors announced the company will hold its first annual general meeting on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, without the attendance of shareholders and published its invitation for shareholders in the Swiss Gazette of Commerce. Due to restrictions banning all public and private events in Switzerland as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the board of directors is directing shareholders to send their voting instructions to the independent representative, Hartmann Dreyer Attorneys-at-Law. Shareholders will not be granted access to the meeting room on the day of the meeting.

Alcon’s board has also revised the proposals for the meeting. In February, the Board proposed a dividend of CHF 0.19 per share for 2019. In light of the current market conditions and economic uncertainties linked to COVID-19, and as part of the company’s overall efforts to maintain financial flexibility and implement cash preservation measures, the board considers that it is in the best interest of Alcon's stakeholders to delay the initiation of a dividend proposal until 2021. As a result, the dividend proposal has been withdrawn and the remaining amount of available earnings, after allocation to the general reserve, shall be carried forward.

The invitation, including agenda, proposals of the board and other meeting materials covering the COVID-19 situation and the withdrawal of the dividend proposal, will soon be mailed directly to shareholders entered in the company’s share register with the right to vote as of the record date of April 27, 2020. The meeting materials will soon be available electronically for information purposes on on the company's site here.

Alcon said it regrets the unusual circumstances of the 2020 annual general meeting and said it hopes to return to a standard agenda next year.

"Alcon’s top priority is protecting the safety of its associates and the communities it serves. As a result, the company has initiated business continuity plans designed to keep its associates and customers safe while continuing to deliver critical eyecare needs for the global health care community. These plans include directing all Alcon office-based associates to work from home and not travel. In manufacturing facilities, the company is limiting the number of people in one area at a time, modifying workstation arrangements and minimizing the cross flow of people between shifts to reduce potential exposure, along with enhanced cleaning and sanitization."

Alcon's is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting charitable partners that are serving the most vulnerable populations affected by the outbreak. "The Alcon Foundation has reallocated funds and made monetary donations to local, national and global organizations to support meal programs for children and seniors, provide essential supplies to shelters and aid public health emergency relief efforts.

As the public health emergency has grown in scale, Alcon has ramped up its efforts to donate personal protective equipment (PPE), while also producing additional PPE and hand sanitizers for relief efforts. Alcon will continue to explore additional measures to support organizations fighting to stem this pandemic," the company said.