Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis today reported an 8% jump in core net profit for 2009 on sales of swine flu vaccine, which are likely to weaken this year.

The Basel-based company also announced that Daniel Vasella would hand over the chief executive's post to Joe Jimenez, the head of the pharmaceuticals division, a job Vasella had combined with the chairmanship for 11 years.

Vasella, reporting core net profit for last year of €7.3 billion, said: 'Novartis delivered an excellent performance in 2009 driven by strong underlying growth across our entire healthcare portfolio.'

The Swiss giant's swine flu vaccine, launched alongside rival vaccine makers last year in response to the pandemic alert and state-led mass vaccination campaigns, helped overall net sales grow by 7%, the company said.

Vasella said that he was more reserved about sales expectations for the A(H1N1) vaccine this year, after governments sought to scale back their 2009 orders and the pandemic appeared to wane.

Earlier this month, the company announced the $40 billion acquisition of dominant eye care group Alcon from Nestle this month.