Ciba Vision improved its operating income sharply to 38 million Swiss francs in the 1st quarter ended March 31, representing 8.9 percent of sales as compared to last year's 1.4 percent. The significant improvement was due mainly to the non-recurring costs of 28 million SF (e19m-$17m) in the year-ago period for the integration of Wesley Jessen. Making abstraction of them, the operating profit still recorded an improvement from last year's level of 8.0 percent.

Ciba Vision achieved only a mild sales growth of 1 percent to 428 million SF (e294m-$267m) in the quarter, but the increase in local currencies was a stronger 4 percent, despite a declining contact lens market. The division's sales were driven by the Focus contact lenses and the FreshLook brand of cosmetic lenses, which were introduced also in Japan. Ciba Vision launched some new improved-convenience products including Solo-care Plus, which was approved by the US Federal Drug Administration in January. In the ophthalmic sector, the division launched Vivarte, an anterior chamber phakic refractive lens, and the company signed a global licensing agreement with Presby Corp. for some innovative ophthalmic surgical products.

The parent company, the Swiss-based Novartis group, reports a 10 percent sales increase to 7.967 billion SF (e5.480m-$4.964m) for the quarter. Its net margin reached 22.4 percent of revenues, up from 20.6 percent last year. The company attributes its success to sustained sales growth in pharmaceuticals, strong sales in generic drugs and the fact that it managed to gain market share in the USA. Novartis expects to maintain current operating margins in its non-pharmaceutical divisions.