NovartisPharmaceuticals led the strong performance supported by contributions from Vaccines and Diagnostics and Consumer Health. Net sales rose 9% (+5% in local currencies, or lc) to USD 41.5 billion. Higher sales volumes provided six percentage points of growth, while positive currency translation added four percentage points. Price changes had a negative effect of one point, while acquisitions had no impact. The US remained the Group's largest country market with 31% of net sales in 2008 (34% in 2007). The European region increased its contribution to 44% of net sales (42% in 2007), while the rest of the world provided 25% (24% in 2007) of net sales.

Operating income advanced 32% to USD 9.0 billion due to the solid business expansion as well as productivity gains from Forward, the Group's efficiency initiative that is freeing up resources for investments in innovation and expansion in high-growth markets. The 2007 results included exceptional charges of approximately USD 1.0 billion (USD 590 million for a Corporate environmental provision increase and USD 444 million of Forward restructuring charges). Excluding these two charges, operating income rose 15% in 2008.

Net income grew 25% to USD 8.2 billion in 2008, rising at a slower pace than operating income due to an unusually low tax rate in 2007 that included various one-time factors. Also affecting net income were the start of financing costs in July 2008 for the acquisition of a 25% stake in Alcon Inc. The agreement with Nestlé S.A. provides future rights to majority control of Alcon, the world leader in eye care. Excluding the exceptional charges for the environmental provision and Forward, net income rose 11%. Basic earnings per share grew 28% to USD 3.59 from USD 2.81 in 2007 on fewer outstanding shares.

Fourth quarter
Dynamic results from Pharmaceuticals and Vaccines and Diagnostics secured the Group's excellent performance, with net sales growth of 1% (+8% lc) reflecting the severe negative impact of volatile currency markets. Higher sales volumes provided nine percentage points of growth, but negative currency translation reduced sales by seven percentage points. Price changes across the Group had a negative impact of one percentage point.

Operating income surged 87% to USD 1.7 billion on the business expansion and amid increasingly challenging economic conditions, aided by productivity gains across the Group. Excluding the USD 444 million Forward restructuring charge in the 2007 quarter, operating income rose 25% in the 2008 quarter, a pace well above net sales growth.

Net income was up 62% to USD 1.5 billion, as non-operating income contributions were reduced mainly by financing costs for the 25% Alcon acquisition. Excluding the year-ago Forward restructuring charge, net income rose 20% in the fourth quarter of 2008. Basic earnings per share (EPS) rose 61% to USD 0.66 from USD 0.41 in the year-ago period.

Investing to achieve sustainable growth
Novartis has made significant progress in recent years to focus and strengthen the Group's healthcare businesses, stepping up investments in innovation, expanding in high-growth markets and improving operational efficiency.

These remain top priorities for the strengthened leadership team of Novartis in 2009 with targets set to deliver superior growth, achieve more productivity gains, further improve cash flow management and bolster the product portfolio.

Novartis completed a series of targeted acquisitions and strategic investments in 2008, led by the purchase in July of a 25% stake in Alcon Inc. (NYSE: ACL), the world leader in eye care, from Nestlé S.A. The USD 10.4 billion cash purchase is part of an agreement providing future rights to take majority ownership. In the optional second step, Novartis can acquire, and Nestlé can sell, the remaining 52% Alcon stake held by Nestlé between January 1, 2010, and July 31, 2011, for up to USD 28 billion. Also in 2008, Novartis acquired Speedel Holding AG of Switzerland, gaining full control over future development of the novel antihypertensive Tekturna/Rasilez. In addition, the acquisition of Protez provided access to the development project PTZ601 for severe bacterial infections. Novartis also advanced its respiratory drug delivery capabilities through the acquisition of Nektar Therapeutics' pulmonary business, which was completed at the end of the year.

Sustained investments in innovation are providing better preventive and therapeutic options, with the Group's medicines touching the lives of an estimated 850 million people in 2008. Novartis completed 14 major submissions in the US, Europe and Japan during 2008. Afinitor, a potential breakthrough for advanced kidney cancer, was among three Novartis submissions that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accepted in 2008 for priority review. The vaccine Menveo for protection against four meningococcal meningitis serogroups was submitted in 2008 for US and EU approval and initial use from ages 11-55, with late-stage trials in infants continuing to support future submissions. Other submissions included QAB149 (US/EU), a once-daily bronchodilator for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and planned to become a cornerstone for future combination therapies; the antibody ACZ885 (US/EU) for initial use in targeted autoimmune diseases such as Muckle-Wells Syndrome; and a single-pill combination of the high blood pressure medicines Diovan and Tekturna/Rasilez (US).

Novartis is expanding in high-growth markets with a longer-term perspective, particularly among the leading emerging markets of Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia, South Korea and Turkey. The Group's net sales from these seven markets rose 18% lc to USD 4.3 billion in 2008. Emerging markets across the world generated net sales growth of 13% lc to USD 10.0 billion, rising faster than established markets to represent 24% of net sales in 2008 compared to 22% in 2007.

Operational efficiency initiatives have made rapid progress to improve speed, flexibility and productivity while freeing up resources. Forward, a Group-wide project launched in December 2007, provided annual cost savings of approximately USD 1.1 billion in 2008, exceeding the target of USD 670 million, that included procurement savings ahead of plan. Further significant cost savings are expected in 2009, and the 2010 cost-savings target of USD 1.6 billion (compared to 2007) will likely be exceeded.

Ahead of the anticipated loss of patent protection for Diovan starting in 2011 in Europe, and in 2012 in the US, Novartis is investing in three focused areas to help drive growth through this period for the Group as well as the Pharmaceuticals Division. Goals of these investments: (1) Accelerate the Oncology pipeline, including faster expansion into new indications; (2) accelerate growth in targeted emerging markets by building up commercial organizations; and (3) accelerate and broaden indications for 13 major pipeline projects in General Medicines. These targeted actions build on expectations for ongoing dynamic growth from recently launched products, which contributed USD 2.9 billion of net sales in 2008, as well as current expectations for the approvals and fast uptake for a number of projects now in late-stage development.

25% increase in dividend proposal for 2008
The Board of Directors proposes a dividend payment of CHF 2.00 per share for 2008, a 25% increase from the dividend of CHF 1.60 per share in 2007. Shareholders will vote on this proposal at the next Annual General Meeting on February 24, 2009. This marks the 12th consecutive increase in the dividend paid per share since the creation of Novartis in December 1996. If approved by shareholders, dividends paid out on the outstanding shares will amount to approximately USD 4.3 billion compared to USD 3.3 billion in 2007. The payout ratio for 2008 is estimated at 53% of the Group's net income from continuing operations. Based on the year-end 2008 share price of CHF 52.70, the dividend yield rises to 3.8% from 2.6% in 2007. The payment date for the 2008 dividend is set for February 27, 2009. All issued shares are dividend bearing, with the exception of 190.5 million treasury shares.

Commenting on the results, Dr. Daniel Vasella, Chairman and CEO of Novartis, said: "Thanks to successful innovation and a leading market position of our healthcare business portfolio, Novartis achieved a strong performance in 2008. Pharmaceuticals returned to dynamic growth and gained market share in the second half of the year, while Vaccines and Diagnostics continued its double-digit growth. Recently launched pharmaceutical products contributed USD 2.9 billion in sales in 2008 further rejuvenating our portfolio, and we submitted 14 major new products filings that underpin our innovation power. Organic growth was complemented by several acquisitions and strategic investments, the most important being the acquisition of a 25% share of Alcon. Novartis anticipates another year of record results in 2009, continuing on its path of sustainable growth."

About Novartis
Novartis AG provides healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Focused solely on healthcare, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines, diagnostic tools and consumer health products. Novartis is the only company with leading positions in these areas. In 2008, the Group's continuing operations achieved net sales of USD 41.5 billion and net income of USD 8.2 billion. Approximately USD 7.2 billion was invested in R&D activities throughout the Group. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 96,700 full-time-equivalent associates and operate in more than 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit