Novartis hit by US factory halt

■ Swiss drugmaker Novartis yesterday stuck to its outlook for lower profitability this year, as a stoppage at a US manufacturing site and tough annual comparisons for its Sandoz division hit first-quarter core earnings. The stoppage to sort out quality issues sent net sales in the consumer health division down 20 per cent in the first quarter. First-quarter sales fell two per cent to $13.74bn, just below analysts' average forecast of $13.85bn.