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Abbott split off its legacy pharmaceutical business from the rest of its efforts on Jan. 1, leaving pharma in the hands of
ABBV). The remaining "New Abbott" manufactures medical devices, nutritional products, diagnostic equipment and some generic drugs. While that business lacks the massive cash flows that pharmaceuticals provided, it also lacks the patent cliff discount that's been hoisted on the industry.
The medical business offers some attractive positioning in its own right. Powerhouse offerings such as Xience stents and high-margin nutritional brands generate plenty of free cash flow, and the firm is already much leaner after applying its spin-off proceeds to its debt load. That debt load, incidentally, has been reduced from $20 billion at the start of the year to a much more manageable $7.9 billion as of the most recent quarter. Going forward, more of that cash should be allocated to dividends; for now, ABT's payout weighs in at a 2.4% yield.
An aging baby boomer population in the U.S. should provide a big tailwind for Abbott in the years to come. Coupled with massive cost-savings efforts, ABT should generate significant multiplying power in its bottom line - at this point, too many one-time spinoff charges are still baked into the 2013 pie to give investors fair metrics.