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Abbott Hits Targets, Backs '09 Forecast

Updated from 8:48 a.m. EST

Abbott Laboratories (ABT - Get Report) matched Wall Street's fourth-quarter earnings estimates Wednesday and reiterated its forecast for double-digit profit growth in 2009.

The diagnostics, medical devices and drug maker reported net income for the fourth quarter of $1.54 billion, or 98 cents a share, compared with net income of $1.2 billion, or 77 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.

Excluding special items, Abbott reported a 14% increase in earnings per share to $1.06 in the fourth quarter, in line with the Street's consensus estimate.

Fourth-quarter revenue rose 10% to $7.95 billion, essentially matching the consensus analyst forecast of $8 billion. Abbott reported revenue of $7.22 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Abbott reiterated its 2009 earnings forecast, first offered Jan. 12, in the range of $3.65 to $3.70 a share on both a GAAP and adjusted basis. At the time, Wall Street was expecting earnings of $3.66 a share.

The midpoint of Abbott's guidance represents 10% growth over 2008 adjusted earnings of $3.32 a share.

Abbott's 2009 earnings outlook includes the company's planned $2.8 billion purchase of eye care company Advanced Medical Optics (EYE).

The bullish forecast offered by Abbott management stands in contrast with diversified health care giant Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Get Report), which said Tuesday that this year's revenue would fall from the reported 2008 level, the company's first annual revenue decline in 75 years. Johnson & Johnson blamed the recession, which is forcing consumers to spend less on health care products, both prescription drugs and consumer products.

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