ZURICH, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Novartis's third-quarter core net income rose 4 percent at constant currencies, beating analyst expectations, as the Swiss drugmaker said it made "significant progress" in preparing its Alcon eyecare unit for a possible spinoff by the first half of 2019.
Core net income was $3.02 billion, compared to the average analyst estimate of $2.93 billion in a Reuters poll. Sales rose 2 percent to $12.4 billion, compared to the $12.2 billion Reuters poll average.
On Alcon, Novartis said a final decision on the unit's future will hinge on continued sales growth and margin improvement over multiple quarters, making potential action "not likely before the first half of 2019".
$1 = $1.0000 Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields