GSK sales grow, thanks to emerging markets, Japan

Color GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) happy. The U.K. drugmaker posted sales growth of 4% for the third quarter, beating analyst estimates. But the really good news is the company's outlook for next year. GSK says it's on track to post full-year sales growth and bigger profit margins for 2012, despite ongoing pricing pressures and economic weakness, as Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, CEO Andrew Witty, encouraged by signs that a Sandoz copy of Advair will be postponed, said he's not anticipating effective generic versions to hit in Europe anytime soon. One version of the $8 billion inhaled drug, which won approval earlier this year, comes in a device that's quite different from GSK's version, so the company doesn't consider it much of a threat.

The Sandoz version might be, but the Novartis ($NVS) unit's approval filing has disappeared from a Finnish listing of pending applications. That's seen as a signal the Sandoz version, developed in concert with Vectura, will be delayed, Reuters reports. "As we stand today, we're not going to see a generic of any materiality in Europe for the next few years," Witty told reporters (as quoted by Bloomberg). "We're probably in the most optimistic place we've been in for several years."

GSK's third-quarter numbers offer some hints that Witty's diversification strategy is working, particularly its expansion in emerging countries. Sales in those fast-expanding healthcare markets are growing at an 11% clip, the company said. Strong performance in its vaccines and consumer healthcare businesses helped the quarterly results, too. Meanwhile, Japanese sales grew by 57%.

Perhaps to persuade investors to hang on long enough to benefit from the "return to growth" in 2012, GSK hiked its dividend and increased its stock buyback plan by 15%. "There are clear signals for growth in 2012 and the increased share buyback is a bit of a nice sweetener," Merchant Securities analyst Navid Malik said.

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