Novartis has posted a solid set of results for the third quarter, buoyed by the sale of its stake in Idenix and continued productivity gains.

The Swiss drug giant booked a 45% rise in earnings to $3.2 billion, including $800 million from pretax income from divesting its Idenix stock to Merck & Co earlier this year.

Sales were up 4% at $14.7 billion for the quarter, tipping analysts’ expectations of $14.55 billion. Revenues from its pharmaceuticals portfolio remained flat at $7.9 billion, with volume growth of 8 percentage points and a positive price impact of 1 percentage point, offset by generic competition (-8 percentage points). 

Turnover booked from its eye unit Alcon was up 5% at $2.7 billion, while those from generics arm Sandoz increased 6% to $2.4 billion.

"Novartis delivered a very strong third quarter. We delivered solid sales growth with margin expansion,” said Joseph Jimenez, adding: “At the same time, we reached key innovation milestones, particularly with LCZ696 in heart failure and AIN457 in psoriasis, underlining the innovation power of the company”.

On the back of its performance, the drug giant is maintaining its full-year outlook, which expects net sales to grow low to mid-single digit at constant exchange rates, and core operating income to grow ahead of sales at mid to high-single digit rate.

Looking further forward, Novartis will have a very different look in 2015, being poised to finalise a stream of deals in a major reshuffle of operations designed to sharpen its focus on pharmaceuticals, generics, and eye care, while dumping its consumer health and vaccines units, which should all complete in the first half of next year.