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We want to be seen as Chinese: Novo Nordisk

A slowdown in the Chinese economy hasn't deterred pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk from expanding its local sales efforts.

The company's sales fell 6 percent in China to 2.2 billion Danish krone ($32 billion) in the second quarter compared to a year earlier, citing increased competition, a decline in diabetes growth, and distribution delays. Meanwhile, China sales for the first six months of 2015 increased by 25 percent in Danish krone, and 3 percent in local currencies.

Overall, second-quarter sales were up 25 percent to 27 billion Danish kroner ($39 billion) and 8 percent in local currencies. The company's quarterly operating profit numbers beat market forecasts, rising 43 percent from last year to 12.48 billion Danish krone ($1.8 billion).

An employee works on a high speed production line of insulin at a factory of Novo Nordisk.
Jean-Francois Monier I AFP I Getty Images
An employee works on a high speed production line of insulin at a factory of Novo Nordisk.

Speaking to CNBC's Squawk Box Europe on Thursday, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Rebien Sorensen said that China was showing a series of problems in the short-term: the country's slowing economy was influencing authorities' ability to pay for healthcare and the government's anti-corruption drive was reducing the company's access to local hospitals and doctors.

Competition had also increased as local manufacturers geared up production levels, and were being favored in regional bidding opportunities.

Still, Sorensen stressed there were opportunities on the horizon.

"We're investing in research, we are still investing in our manufacturing operations. We believe in the long term outlook in China."

He explained there was reason for the world's largest insulin maker to be upbeat on rather unfortunate health prospects for China's citizens. Sorensen said the adoption of urban and westernized lifestyles are leading to many more of the country's 1.3 billion-strong population developing diabetes.

Novo Nordisk is now expanding its sales force in order to be able to navigate Chinese policy, expanding on what Sorensen said was a long-standing relationship with the region.

"We were the first international company to establish R&D in China. We were also the first to establish modern insulin manufacturing in China," he said.

"We hope to be seen over time as a Chinese company so that we can partake in the development of diabetes care in China."