Alcon, the eyecare business of Novartis, posted a 3 percent sales increase for the third quarter, with growth of 5 percent in constant currencies. The Surgical business' increase of 7 percent in constant currencies was driven by double-digit growth for the company's advanced intraocular lenses, as well as continued growth in consumables and equipment. Meanwhile, Vision Care sales grew by 3 percent in constant currencies, led by double-digit growth of Dailies Total and Systane. Alcon's results reflect a seventh consecutive quarter of net sales growth, mainly as a result of improved operations and customer relations.
However, the company ended the quarter with an operating loss of $297 million, as compared to a loss of $2 million for the same quarter last year, impacted by the net charges from the voluntary withdrawal of CyPass ($0.3 billion). The core operating income margin decreased by 1.4 percentage points to 17.1 percent, negatively impacted by currency fluctuations.
With a loss of $190 million in 2017, Alcon's profitability has remained below that of other divisions of the Swiss group. Novartis reported total sales of $12.8 billion for the quarter, up by 3 percent. Volume growth of 9 percentage points was partly offset by the negative impacts of pricing and competition from generics. Net income declined by 22 percent to $1.6 billion.
The Swiss group decided earlier this year to spin off Alcon, keeping only its portfolio of pharmaceutical products. The completion of the transaction will remain pending until the annual general meeting in February 2019, when the company will be seeking approval from shareholders. After the spin-off, which should be completed during the first half of next year, Alcon would be independently traded on the stock exchanges of Zurich and Lyon, with annual sales of around $7 billion.