BASEL, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis confirmed its forecasts for 2014 sales growth in the mid single digits, signalling it expects delayed generic competition to its once best-selling blood pressure pill Diovan to kick in in the second quarter.
Novartis lost its patent rights for Diovan in the United States at the end of 2012, but has been spared some of the pain from cheaper, copycat drugs since Ranbaxy Laboratories faced regulatory delays for its generic version.
Excluding the impact of the delay to generic competition, the Basel-based group on Thursday guided investors to expect low to mid-single digit sales growth in 2014, while core earnings should grow ahead of sales.
It expects generic competition to knock as much as $3 billion off sales this year, compared to the $2.2 billion impact in 2013.
Novartis net sales rose 2 percent in the fourth quarter to $15.08 billion, compared to the average analyst forecast for $15.09 billion in a Reuters poll. Core earnings per share fell 3 percent to $1.20, compared to the $1.28 mean estimate.
Reporting by Caroline Copley