First quarter sales at pharmaceutical giant Roche were up 5 per cent in Swiss franc terms to SFr7.4 billion (€5m), with good performances from the group's other divisions more than offsetting a decline at the vitamins arm.
Growth was driven by the pharmaceuticals division, where sales advanced 5 per cent to SFr4,714 million, and by the diagnostics division, which posted a 9 per cent gain. Sales by the vitamins and fine chemicals division were down 3 per cent, however, as a result of "a highly competitive marketplace". The company is currently reviewing strategic options for the division, and plans to demerge the unit are continuing as planned.
As expected, Roche said that the economic conditions had adversely affected vitamin sales in January and February, especially in Europe, although they improved towards the end of March. The company also took heart from a positive growth trend in North America.
There were also encouraging performances from a number of new products from the vitamins and fine chemicals division during the quarter, such as lutein, natural source vitamin E and the new sunscreen agent Parsol SLX. The animal nutrition segment also performed particularly well.
For the year as a whole, Roche said it expected the vitamin division to post sales growth in the low single-digit range, as it continues to operate in a difficult economic environment. The division aims to maintain its operating and EBITDA margins, the company said.