Alcon 'open for business' on deals, aims to return to sales growth in H2 2016

Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez

Novartis ($NVS) is working to execute on its turnaround plan for its Alcon vision business. But for now, sales are still on the decline. In the first quarter, Alcon net sales fell 7% from $1.4 billion. The company said it expects the unit to return to sales growth during the second half of this year--and that it ultimately expects it to have low-single-digit organic growth.

The company's CEO Joseph Jimenez offered some context for the business' results this quarter, saying that "Alcon was down as expected as we begin to execute the growth acceleration plan." Part of that plan is to pull the ophthalmic pharmaceutical products from Alcon and into the pharma business.

Alcon's new CEO, F. Michael Ball

Although the company's expectations are solely on organic growth, it's also highlighting dealmaking. Alcon closed three deals in the past 60 days, division head and CEO F. Michael Ball noted on the call.

"We have initiated a focused set of actions to get our business turned around. In terms of innovation, we are putting more investments behind our most promising R&D program in both surgical and vision care," he said. "And we are actively consulting to get top position input to ensure the best user experience. Also, we are, I'll call it, open for business, if you will, on the business development front."

Earlier this week, Alcon disclosed an option deal with startup PowerVision, which has fluid-based intraocular implants for cataract patients with presbyopia. Alcon also acquired minimally invasive glaucoma device company Transcend Medical for an undisclosed sum earlier this year.

In 2014, Novartis also partnered with then-Google ($GOOG) to develop smart contact lenses--the first for presbyopia and another for glucose sensing in diabetics. The former is slated to be in the clinic this year.

Summed up Ball on Alcon's current state: "Obviously, the next question is--When is the turnaround? So, it's early days. But I feel that our growth acceleration plan will put us on track for sustainable growth by the end of this year."

- here is the earnings release
- and here is the webcast

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