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Roche 2013 sales fall but CEO confident on EM trade

Global healthcare company Roche is confident of growth in emerging markets despite the financial turmoil in developing economies, the chief executive told CNBC.

"We see continuing strong growth in emerging markets actually, we've seen double-digit growth in markets like China and other important developing countries," Severin Schwan, chief executive of Roche told CNBC Europe's "Squawk Box" on Thursday.

"And penetration with our medicines is still relatively low in those markets so I predict that we'll have continued strong demand for our products."

On Thursday, the Swiss firm reported a 3 percent rise in 2013 sales, just below what analysts forecast in a Reuters poll.

Group sales for the year came in at 46.78 billion Swiss francs ($52.17 billion) on Thursday. Sales growth was strongest in the United States (up 10 percent) and emerging markets (up 12 percent), which grew faster than Europe (up 2 percent) and Japan (up 2 percent), the group said.

Shares of the company were trading down 1.4 percent on Thursday morning.

Gianluca Colla | Bloomberg | Getty Images

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The growth was the result of strong demand for Roche's medicines used in oncology, immunology and ophthalmology as well as for its clinical laboratory diagnostic products which are used to test and diagnose diseases.

Schwan insisted that the company had one of the strongest pipelines in the industry beyond its oncology medicines. "We have a strong pipeline in oncology but there's also a strong pipeline in areas like inflammation or ophthalmology."

In its earnings release, Roche said its board proposed a dividend increase of 6 percent to 7.80 Swiss francs for 2013.

It said it expected low to mid-single digit sales growth for 2014 at constant exchange rates, and forecast an increase in its dividend.

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