Novartis Earnings Grow 18%, Raises Sales Guidance

Novartis (NVS) shares climbed 1.4% in early trading Thursday after the drugmaker reported that its second-quarter profit rose 18%. Strong demand for newly launched products offset drug price cuts in Europe and helped improve margins. Novarits also raised its sales outlook for the year as it benefited from growing cancer drug sales as well as generics.

Kicking off Big Pharma sales, Novartis said its profit rose to $2.44 billion from $2.04 billion. Earnings per share rose 17% from 90 cents to $1.06, beating estimates by a penny. Sales climbed 12% to $11.72 billion, with cancer drug sales growing by 11%, and generic sales rising by 13% in constant currencies.

"Based on the strong first half, we are raising our sales guidance for the full year," Novarits said. It now expects to deliver constant currency sales growth at mid- to high-single-digits (excluding Alcon).

Separately the Swiss pharmaceutical announced Wednesday it was paying $152 million to settle gender discrimination claims.

Novartis is also said it's sticking by its offer to buy out minority shareholders in eyecare company Alcon (ACL) and expects to complete the acquisition late in the third quarter or the fourth quarter of 2010.