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Novartis Q1 core net falls amid Alcon, Entresto revival bid

Novartis is taking aim at drug-resistant malaria - a growing global problem - by launching clinical trials of the first new antimalarial medicine for many years in nine countries across Africa and Asia.

[ZURICH] First-quarter core net income at Swiss drugmaker Novartis fell 13 per cent as it reels from patent expiries, a struggling eyecare business and lackluster sales of its new heart medicine.

Core net income, which excludes some items, fell to US$2.79 billion, compared to the US$2.76 billion average of forecasts from analysts polled by Reuters. Sales fell to US$11.6 billion, compared to the poll average of US$11.8 billion.

It maintained in 2016 guidance for sales and core operating profit broadly in line with last year's levels. Core operating profit fell 11 percent in dollars to US$3.26 billion in the quarter, down 5 per cent at constant exchange rates.

Novartis results were broadly in line with analyst forecasts, helped by better-than-expected sales of blockbuster blood cancer drug Gleevec. After losing patent protection this year, the product's revenue slipped 22 per cent to US$834 million. Analysts had forecast a 34 per cent fall.

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Entresto, its new heart failure medicine, continued its sluggish start, posting US$17 million in sales.

Alcon, the eye care unit that is being restructured, saw sales fall 7 per cent to US$1.4 billion.

Chief Executive Joe Jimenez has been buffeted by simultaneous challenges: Gleevec's exposure to generics in the United States amid Alcon's continuing revenue slide and the slow takeup of Entresto, both of which require significant investments to invigorate growth. "As expected, our results reflect additional investments behind our new launches and Alcon," Mr Jimenez said. "We are on track with the plan we outlined in January to further focus our divisions, drive greater innovation and significant synergies and productivity. I remain confident in our long-term growth prospects." Its shares have fallen nearly 15 per cent this year.