Pigeons sit on a roof in front of the logo of Swiss drugmaker Novartis at the company's plant in Basel.

Zurich - Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis said Thursday its net profits for the first half had shot up by 13 percent and stuck by its forecast of continued sales growth across the year.

Driven by strong sales in emerging markets such as China and Russia, first-half net profits rose to $5.56 billion (4.5 billion euros), compared to $4.97 billion for the same period in 2013, the group said.

Group turnover also grew, but at a slower rate, rising two percent to $28.66 billion, according to the earnings statement.

Novartis boss Joseph Jimenez hailed what he called his group's “solid financial performance” and the pharma titan said it was keeping its full-year forecast of a growth in turnover of “low to mid-single digits”.

In the second quarter, profits rose by three percent to reach $2.58 billion, Novartis said.

Novartis has seen radical changes in the past few months, announcing in April a string of multi-billion-dollar deals with rival GlaxoSmithKline in what Jimenez described as a “transformational moment” for the Swiss group.

The deals will see Novartis sharpen its focus on the high-grossing cancer sector and GSK seeking to boost its share in the vaccine market. - Sapa-AFP