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LONDON, April 26 (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline's new chief executive reported slightly better than expected first-quarter results on Wednesday, keeping the drugmaker on track to hit financial targets in 2017 as it braces for generic competition to blockbuster lung drug Advair.
Weak sterling in the wake of last year's Brexit vote helped lift sales and adjusted earnings per share (EPS) 19 and 31 percent respectively to 7.38 billion pounds ($9.46 billion) and 25.0 pence.
Analysts, on average, had forecast sales of 7.26 billion pounds and EPS of 24.5p, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Emma Walmsley, 47, who took over from outgoing CEO Andrew Witty on April 1, said: "This is a positive start for the year with sales growth in all three of our businesses and an improvement in the group's operating margin."
Under Witty, GSK built up a diversified business, with its core pharmaceuticals operation buttressed by large consumer health and vaccine units.
Walmsley, who previously headed the consumer division after 17 years at L'Oreal, is expected to stick with the diversified strategy. She will set out her detailed vision for the company in three months time, alongside half-year results.
GSK last month won a short-term reprieve from the threat of generic Advair when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration delayed approval of Mylan's copy of the inhaler for asthma and chronic lung disease.
But with another substitutable Advair generic from Hikma potentially winning a green light by May 10, GSK reiterated that generic Advair could still dent full-year profits. ($1 = 0.7798 pounds) (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Martinne Geller)