The Swiss maker of pharmaceuticals, surgical products and products to treat eye disorders, which is being taken over by Novartis, has reported global sales of $1,536.4 million for the first quarter, up by 16.2 percent over last year. Excluding foreign currency effects, this was an increase of 9.4 percent. Alcon saw net earnings of $429.4 million, a 24.0 percent jump, and the operating margin was up by 2.1 percentage points to 32.6 percent.

Results in 2007 included $32.7 million in charges related to the impairment of certain refractive assets. The results for the period, which ended on March 31, 2008, include expenses from the integration of WaveLight, the German company recently acquired by Alcon, and the establishment of a shared service center in Switzerland.

The gross profit margin went up by 0.5 percentage points to 74.1 percent. Sales outside the USA grew by 25.6 percent to $864.4 million, by only 12.6 percent in local currencies. Sales growth in the USA was more modest, showing an increase of 5.9 percent to $672.0 million. Among the various business segments, consumer eye care sales grew to $210.1 million, 12.1 percent more than in the same period of 2007.

Alcon predicted a better fiscal year 2008 than it had previously, adjusting its forecast to sales of $6.4 billion to $6.5 million. This is because currency rates are more favorable than expected.