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Currency losses bite into profit at Novartis

PHARMACEUTICALS maker Novartis AG reported a 14-percent decline in first-quarter net income yesterday in part because of currency losses and financing the takeover of the Alcon eye care company.

Novartis posted a profit of US$1.98 billion, compared with US$2.3 billion in the first quarter of 2008.

Novartis said pharmaceuticals led the group's health-care portfolio in the first quarter of 2009 with recently launched products rejuvenating the portfolio.

It cited the first regulatory approval of the drug Afinitor against kidney cancer in the United States and the approval in Europe and the US of the new Ixiaro vaccine against Japanese encephalitis.

"New products fueled ongoing momentum in pharmaceuticals," said Chief Executive Daniel Vasella. "The fundamentals of the business remain positive."

He said the company would be spurred by "the uncertain economy and currency market volatility" to enhance productivity and manage costs.

"Our aim in 2009 remains to again deliver record underlying net sales and earnings excluding currency effects," Vasella said.

Novartis said it recorded net sales for the first three months of the year of US$9.7 billion, down 2 percent from US$9.9 billion in the same period of last year.


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