(Adds comment from Novartis)
ZURICH, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Novartis's third-quarter core net income rose 4 percent at constant currencies, beating expectations, as the drugmaker said it had made "significant progress" in preparing its Alcon eyecare unit for a possible spinoff by the first half of 2019.
Core net income rose to $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.
The Swiss group confirmed its full-year outlook.
On Alcon, where sales rose 7 percent in constant currencies, Novartis said on Tuesday a final decision on the unit's future hinged on continued sales growth and margin improvement over multiple quarters, making potential action "not likely before the first half of 2019".
"The strategic review also indicates that creating a stand-alone company via a capital markets exit could create additional shareholder value," Novartis said in a statement.
"We have also made significant progress on developing a potential capital markets solution, including financial carve-outs, tax and legal entity structuring, and identifying listing and incorporation locations."
Psoriasis drug Cosentyx generated quarterly sales of $556 million, beating market estimates. Sales of heart drug Entresto more than doubled to $128 million but missed market expectations. (Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields)