March 19, 2021

Novo Holdings posts record income and returns of DKK 29 billion (EUR 4 billion) in 2020

Novo Holdings’ 2020 result is based on a strong performance from both the Investment Portfolio and the Novo Group companies (Novo Nordisk and Novozymes).

“2020 was a very satisfactory year for Novo Holdings, despite the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. Our income and investment returns are once again well balanced, with strong contributions from the Novo Group companies and from the Investment Portfolio. In line with our stated strategy, we also expanded our geographical reach by opening our Singapore office and by establishing a presence in the US for Principal Investments,” says Kasim Kutay, CEO of Novo Holdings.

Three significant records

Novo Holdings closed 2020 with three significant records.

  • We recorded income and returns for the year at DKK 29 billion (EUR 4 billion), based on a very satisfactory return on the Investment Portfolio of 12%, corresponding to DKK 16 billion (EUR 2.2 billion), and income from the Novo Group of DKK 13 billion (EUR 1.7 billion). Life Science Investments accounted for 52% of the Novo Holdings total Investment Portfolio and generated a return of 17%, in line with its 10-year average return.

  • Assets under management reached the highest level ever, with our Investment Portfolio increasing to DKK 150 billion (EUR 20 billion) and total assets at DKK 457 billion (EUR 61 billion), measuring the Novo Nordisk and Novozymes A shares at the value of the B shares by end of year.

  • The number of life science companies in the Investment Portfolio grew to more than 120, of which 10 went public during 2020.

“While 2020 was a very good year, we are ultimately long-term investors. We are very pleased to report that we are delivering on the key objective of generating attractive long-term returns on the assets of the Novo Nordisk Foundation, with an average 10-year return by the Investment Portfolio of 12%,” says Kasim Kutay.

The largest contribution to the result of DKK 29 billion (EUR 4 billion) came from the returns from the Investment Portfolio of DKK 16.5 billion (EUR 2.2 billion), versus DKK 14.8 billion (EUR 2.0 billion) in 2019. Dividends and income from participating in the share repurchase programmes of the Novo Group companies totalled DKK 12.6 billion (EUR 1.7 billion), versus DKK 11.3 billion (EUR 1.5 billion) in 2019.

Non-life science activities

Novo Holdings diversifies its Investment Portfolio by investing in assets outside the life sciences, as executed by Novo Capital Investors. At the end of 2020, these non-life science investments had a value of DKK 73 billion (EUR 9.8 billion) and accounted for 48% of the total Investment Portfolio.

Novo Capital Investors generated a return of 8% in 2020, well ahead of the performance of the comparable weighted benchmark. Key highlights of the year include investments by the new Real Assets team, including a commitment of more than DKK 1 billion (more than EUR 134 million) in the Nordic real estate group NREP and a commitment of around DKK 1 billion in US-based infrastructure fund I Squared Capital.

Highlights from the Life Science Investments teams:


  • Novo Seeds, creating and investing in early-stage biotech companies in the Nordics, created five new portfolio companies, including Rappta Therapeutics, Hemab ApS, and Chromologics. Several portfolio companies concluded major financing rounds, including MinervaX, CorWave, Reapplix and Galecto. In total, Novo Seeds invested close to DKK 600 million (EUR 81 million) in 2020.

  • Novo Ventures, investing in venture stage biotech and medical technology companies, invested into 66 companies, both private and public. Overall, Novo Ventures deployed a record DKK 3.7 billion (EUR 501 million), cementing its position as one of the world’s leading life science venture investors. Nine companies from the Novo Ventures portfolio undertook IPOs in 2020.

  • Novo Growth, providing expansion capital to high-growth life science companies, completed four new direct investments and six follow-on investments, overall deploying DKK 1.1 billion (EUR 150 million). Notable investments include the acquisition of significant minority positions in Exscientia and Mission Bio, as well as further investments in Tempus and Vestaron.

  • Principal Investments, making sizable investments in leading, well-established life science companies, deployed DKK 5 billion (EUR 662 million) of capital, including the private investment into WCG (transaction announced end 2019) and two sizeable public investments into a leading medtech and a pharma services company, all US-based. Principal Investments also added to its position in Evotec. From an exit perspective, Principal Investments sold its stake in Symphogen to Servier Laboratories.



Return on the investment portfolio.

The following table shows the 5- and 10-year returns for Novo Holdings’ life science investments, capital investments and total investment portfolio. The results for 2020 and 2019 are included for comparison along with the long-term returns.

Annual return on the investment portfolio, excluding the Novo Group20202019Last 5 yearsLast
10 years
Return on life science investments (%)17%11%11%17%
Return on capital investments (%)8%17%8%9%
Return on total investment portfolio (%)12%14%9%12%


Income and investment returns (in DKK (EUR) billion)



20202019Income from the Novo Group12.6 (1.7)11.3 (1.5) 

Return on life science investments


11.2 (1.5)


6.4 (0.9)


Return on capital investments


5.3 (0.7)


8.4 (1.1)


Total income and investment returns


29.1 (3.9)


26.0 (3.5)

As a holding and investment company, Novo Holdings invests to generate long-term returns. The overall value of the holding and investment assets was DKK 457 billion (EUR 61.4 billion) at the end of 2020.


Holding and investment assets (in DKK (EUR) billion)

20202019Novo Group307 (41.2)284 (38.1)Life science investments77 (10.4)65 (8.7)Capital investments73 (9.8)62 (8.3)Total value of holding and investment assets457 (61.4)411 (55.0)

Notes: Income from the Novo Group includes dividends received from Novo Nordisk A/S and Novozymes A/S, in addition to income related to the sale of shares in Novo Group companies. In the investment assets overview, the value of the Novo Group is presented with both A and B shares valued at the closing price of B shares on 31 December 2020 and 31 December 2019. Income and investment returns as well as total holding and investment assets include the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s share of returns and assets.

About the performance overview of the investment portfolio

All returns are calculated in DKK and reflect total returns excluding internal costs. The returns on life science investments are calculated as internal rate of return (IRR) based on the book value at the end of the measurement period and cash flows within the measurement period compared with the book value at the beginning of the measurement period. Capital Investments’ returns and Investment Portfolio returns are based on Time Weighted Returns (TWR).

Read Novo Holdings Annual report 2020 here.


About Novo Holdings A/S

Novo Holdings A/S is a private limited liability company wholly owned by the Novo Nordisk Foundation. It is the holding company of the Novo Group, comprising Novo Nordisk A/S and Novozymes A/S, and is responsible for managing the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s assets.

Novo Holdings is recognized as a leading international life science investor, with a focus on creating long-term value. As a life science investor, Novo Holdings provides seed and venture capital to development-stage companies and takes significant ownership positions in growth and well-established companies. Novo Holdings also manages a broad portfolio of diversified financial assets. Further information: