Novartis reported sales for its Alcon eye care business of $1.4 billion in the first quarter, down by 1 percent versus last year's first quarter. In constant currencies, Alcon sales increased by 1 percent. Novartis said Alcon's growth plan is on track, with ongoing actions to accelerate sales and innovation, strengthen customer relationships and improve the efficiency of operations. Alcon sales growth was driven by Vision Care, up by 4 percent in constant currencies thanks to the strong performance of the daily contact lens portfolio, including double-digit growth of Dailies Total1. The Alcon division posted an operating loss of $43 million as compared to an income of $31 million in last year's first quarter. The division invested in expanding new product launches, including CyPass and Ngenuity 3D.
In January 2017, Novartis announced a strategic review of its Alcon division. The company said that options to maximize shareholder value of the division are currently under consideration. An update is expected to be provided towards the end of 2017.
Meanwhile, Novartis reported group sales of $11.5 billion for the first quarter, down by 1 percent from a year ago, as volume growth was partially offset by the negative impact of generic competition and pricing. In constant currencies, group sales were up by 2 percent. All divisions reported growth in constant currencies. Net income was $1.7 billion, down by 17 percent, or down by 15 percent in constant currencies, versus last year's first quarter. The company mainly attributed the double-digit drop to a net charge related to the discontinuation of the development of the RLX030 (serelaxin) and the decline in core operating income.
Novartis confirmed its full-year forecast for flat group sales, as presented at the beginning of 2017. The Alcon division is expected to post sales broadly in line with last year to low single digit growth.