May 16, 2019 / 6:35 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Spun-off Alcon gives first full-year guidance as it posts flat sales

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BERLIN, May 16 (Reuters) - Swiss-listed eye care company Alcon expects to boost sales 3 to 5% this year factoring out currency moves, it said on Thursday in its first stand-alone results report since spinning off from Novartis in April.

"Solid first-quarter results give us confidence in our ability to perform as an independent company and to continue to execute on our key growth drivers," Chief Executive David Endicott said in a statement.

Providing its first 2019 guidance, Alcon said it expected to achieve a 17 to 18% core operating margin this year, in line with the 17.7% it reported for the first three months.

It posted an operating loss of $48 million for the quarter, saying spin-off, software, and research and development costs had been a drag.

Novartis had already reported last month that the eye division's revenue from January through March had risen 4% in constant currency terms to $1.8 billion from the previous year. In dollar terms, Alcon's first-quarter revenues were flat.

Since its April 9 spin-off created a $30 billion company by market capitalisation, its shares have risen about 12 percent.

They were down 0.15% in pre-market indications, in line with other Swiss blue-chip stocks.

Alcon, with $7.1 billion in annual revenue, wrestled with flagging sales under Novartis.

After investments over the past three years helped arrest the decline, Alcon now aims to strengthen its rank as the biggest ophthalmic surgery device maker and No. 2 maker of contact lenses and solutions behind Johnson & Johnson.

Alcon has said it plans to pay a dividend in 2020, focus on "bolt-on" acquisitions, and boost its operating margins to the mid-20 percentage range by 2023. (Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Michelle Martin and Michael Shields)

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