Novartis ( NVS) delivered a 23% gain in profits for the fourth quarter and promised that 2007 should be modestly better than last year.

"I am confident of another year of record sales and earnings" this year, Dr. Daniel Vasella, chairman and CEO of the Swiss drug giant, said Thursday.

Corporate sales should climb "at a mid- to high-single-digit rate" when measured in local currencies, the company said. Full-year sales of $37 billion grew 14% over 2005 based on local currencies.

For the fourth quarter, Novartis earned $1.67 billion, or 70 cents a share, on revenue of $10.1 billion. Those figures, using a U.S. dollar comparison, represented a 21% rise in earnings per share and a 16% advance in revenue from the same period in 2005.

Novartis earned $7.2 billion, or $3.06 a share, for all of 2006, up from a profit of $6.14 billion, or $2.63 a share, the previous year. Novartis was the sixth-biggest seller of prescription drugs in the U.S. in 2005, according to the medical data firm IMS Health.

Despite anticipating solid growth from veteran drugs, Novartis will be paying more attention to experimental drugs in the coming months. The company expects to hear from U.S. or European Union regulators on several products, including treatments for hypertension and diabetes, that analysts say could be big sales sources.

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