Novartis AG (NVS - Get Report)  posted stronger-than-expected second quarter earnings Tuesday and lifted the outlook for full-year sales at its eyecare division 

Novartis said earnings per share hit $1.22 in the three months ending in June, firmly ahead of the FactSet compiled consensus of $1.14 but down from the $1.23 generated over the same period last year. Group sales were tabbed at $12.242 billion, Novartis said, down 2% from last year but ahead of analysts's forecasts of 11.83 billion.

"Novartis delivered very strong innovation in Q2 including the positive pivotal trial readouts for RTH258, ACZ885 and CTL019 JULIET, demonstrating the strength of our pipeline," said CEO Joseph Jimenez. "We are on track for the full year guidance. The trajectory of the current growth drivers reinforces our confidence in our next growth phase, which we expect to start in 2018."

Alcon, the group's eyecare division which is currently under strategic review, saw sales grow 3% from last year to $1.5 billion and Novartis now sees full-year revenue growing in the "low single digit" range, a modestly higher forecast than it provided earlier this year. It also said it would update on the review of the unit, which some have speculated could be sold, "towards the end of the year".

In May, Novartis said it plans to consider "all options" for Alcon, noting that "with continued innovation, investment and improved operations, Alcon expects to return to long-term, sustainable growth with margins in line with industry peers."

Speaking with Bloomberg television following the result, Jimenez said that "all options" were on the table for the group, "including a capital markets exit".

"It's too early for me to say because we haven't made a decision," Jimenez said. "Right now we're doing the valuations and one option is a spin to shareholders where they would be able to get the upside for the business over the next few years."

Sales in Novartis' generic medicines and biosimilars division, Sandoz, fell 5% from last year to $2.5 billion but the group held onto prior guidance that sees sales "broadly in line" with 2016.

In a late May update during an investor conference in Boston, Novartis said the "impact of US pricing pressure and prior year launch timing is expected to have a higher impact" on second quarter sales."

"Full year 2017 Sandoz sales guidance, expected to be broadly in line with prior year, remains unchanged," Novartis said, noting also that the "delayed Glatopa 40mg launch", which is linked to FDA concerns over a Pfizer Inc. (PFE - Get Report) production facility in Kansas.

Novartis shares were marked 2% higher in the opening 30 minutes of trading in Zurich to change hands at Sfr81.57 each and extend their three-month gain to just over 12%.