New Novartis (NYSE: NVS) CEO Joe Jimenez had a pretty good first quarter on the job. Keep it up, Joe.

The former head of the pharmaceutical division became CEO in February after Daniel Vasella handed over the reins while keeping his chairman title. (OK, OK. Jimenez was in charge for two-thirds of the quarter.)

Sales were up 25% year over year, but don't get too excited just yet. Seven percentage points of that increase were due to currency changes, while 9% of sales came from a $1.1 billion contract to supply swine flu vaccine. Even excluding those one-time gains, it was still a nice solid quarter.

In addition to the stellar operation, Jimenez has managed to get a couple of deals done during his short tenure. This week the company announced that it'll buy Oriel Therapeutics, which specializes in generic versions of asthma drugs. Oriel could help Novartis go after a generic version of GlaxoSmithKline's (NYSE: GSK) hard-to-copy blockbuster Advair. Novartis also announced a licensing deal for Array BioPharma's MEK inhibitor program including phase 1 cancer drug candidate ARRY-162.

In the future, Jimenez's biggest challenge will be integrating eye-care specialist Alcon (NYSE: ACL), which his predecessor bought from Nestle. The company will own a majority stake in Alcon and would like to close out the remaining minority shares at a lower price than it paid Nestle. While it may be in its rights to do so, Alcon employees are also shareholders, making for one sticky situation.

Novartis also has a couple of upcoming drug approvals, including an oral multiple sclerosis drug, which should be able to compete against Tysabri from Biogen Idec (Nasdaq: BIIB) and Elan (NYSE: ELN), Biogen's Avonex, Rebiv from EMD Serono and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), and Teva Pharmaceutical's (Nasdaq: TEVA) Copaxone.

Leadership transitions instill a bit of additional risk into owning a stock. So far, though, the transition to Jimenez's leadership seems to be going just fine.

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Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Pfizer is an Inside Value pick. Elan is a Rule Breakers recommendation. The Fool owns shares of GlaxoSmithKline and has a disclosure policy.