Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis has announced a net profit of $7.20 billion (SFr9 billion) for 2006 – up 17 per cent on 2005.
The Basel-based concern said on Thursday that the rise was thanks to innovation and the strengthening of its healthcare portfolio.
Full-year sales were $37.02 billion, up 15 per cent on the previous year while operating income was up 18 per cent with productivity offsetting acquisition costs and investments in new pharmaceutical product launches.
"The strong performance in 2006 stems from our commitment to innovation and reflects the impact of strengthening our healthcare portfolio. All divisions, particularly Pharmaceuticals, performed very well," said Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella.
Despite the healthy figures both the 2006 profit and sales were just short of analysts' expectations.
The consumer health division's operating profit fell 17 per cent in the fourth quarter to $143 million, largely owing to costs related to a contact lens recall. Around 12 million lenses were recalled from its CIBA Vision unit due to quality problems.
Novartis, the world's fourth-largest pharmaceuticals company produces multibillion dollar cardiovascular and cancer drugs. New drugs are about to hit the market.
The company, which also makes generic and non-prescription drugs and animal health products, sold its medical nutrition business to Swiss food multinational Nestlé for $2.5 billion at the end of 2006.
The sale did not include the Gerber baby food division, which analysts expect Novartis to shed in the medium term.
Vasella predicts that Novartis's success will continue into 2007.
In a statement he said he had "high expectations for further dynamic growth" in the company's Vaccines and Diagnostics division.
"Launches are planned for several innovative medicines in 2007 and 2008, and we will keep investing aggressively in Research & Development to sustain our performance. I am confident of another year of record sales and earnings in 2007."
swissinfo with agencies
Novartis in 2006
Net profit: $7.20 billion
Full-year sales: $37.02 billion
Operating income: $8.2 billion
Created in 1996 through the merger of Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz, Novartis is currently organized into four divisions.
These are Pharmaceuticals (prescription medicines); Vaccines and Diagnostics, a new division focused on the development of preventive treatments and tools; Sandoz, (generic prescription drugs) and Consumer Health.
The name Novartis is derived from the Latin novae artes, meaning "new skills" and reflects the company's commitment to research and development.