GlaxoSmithKline has turned in a promising start to the year with a stronger than expected sales and profit performance from its core business during the first quarter.

The UK drugs giant reported profit of £282 million; while this was far below last year’s result of £8.1 billion, the year-ago period was swelled by the firm’s mega asset swap with Novartis. 

Removing exceptional items, operating profit actually climbed 19 percent to £1.56 billion (13 percent at constant exchange rates), comfortably beating analysts’ forecasts.

First-quarter sales also showed a increase with an 11 percent rise to £6.2 billion, or 8 percent at CER. 

Turnover of pharmaceuticals dipped 1 percent (at CER) to £3.6 billion, in part because of the absence of divested oncology assets and lower sales of respiratory drugs (down 2 percent overall).

However, turnover of new products hit £821 million, more than double the same period last year, and the segment now represents 20% of total pharmaceutical sales, underpinning future growth. 

Also lifting the overall picture, first-quarter sales from the firm’s newly bulked-up vaccines segment (via the Novartis deal) leapt 23 percent to £882 million, and consumer healthcare revenues grew 26% to £1.8 billion.

“Overall, the quarter reflects the progress we have made in our strategy and our ability to allocate capital across our three businesses to generate the best returns,” said GSK’s chief executive Sir Andrew Witty, who is set to retire next year.

“Together with the roll out of our new commercial model, we believe the Group is well placed to maximise the opportunities, and respond to the competitive pressures and challenging pricing dynamics, that we see in the global healthcare environment”.