Sales of swine flu vaccine helped the Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis to sales of $2.95bn (£1.9bn) in the first quarter of 2010, the company announced yesterday. Total sales jumped by 25 per cent, to $12.1bn, sending the shares up by nearly 1.5 per cent on the Zurich stock exchange. Novartis said that it expects a strong performance this year from its pharmaceuticals division, after disclosing that drug sales were ahead of its own forecasts. "The strong sales and profit contributions in the first quarter of 2010 from fulfilment of agreed-upon government supply contracts for [H1N1] pandemic vaccines, with sales approximately $400m above the group's target at the beginning of the year, will further strengthen these prospects," Novartis said in a statement. The quarterly results were the first for the new chief executive, Joe Jimenez, and finance director, Jon Symonds.