Abbott's Capital Flexibility in Focus Ahead of Earnings Release

With Abbott Laboratories (ABT) paying down debt from recent acquisitions at a fast clip, the company's "increasing capital flexibility" is among the key topics as it prepares to report earnings, BMO Capital Markets analyst Joanne K. Wuensch wrote in a note on Thursday, July 12.

The Abbott Park, Ill.-based company, which will report second-quarter earnings before the market open on Wednesday, in October completed the acquisition of diagnostics company Alere Inc. for $51 per share, or $4.5 billion. And in January 2017, Abbott wrapped up its $23.6 billion purchase of St. Jude Medical Inc., a maker of heart-failure devices and technology.

Following the two deals, Abbott had about $28 billion in gross debt. On an earnings call in April, Abbott chairman and CEO Miles D. White said Abbott had paid down $6 billion this year and expected to pay down another $2 billion by year's end, which would bring the company's debt down to $20 billion. "It's a pretty rapid rate of pay down on the debt," Miles said on the April 18 call.

The story on Abbott continues to be "the integration of two major acquisitions, and with it a full product portfolio," as well as the accelerated paydown of debt and the company's delivery of 6% to 7% organic growth, Wuensch wrote.

For the three months ended June 30, Wuensch projected Abbott to post earnings per share of 71 cents. She reduced her revenue estimate to $7.61 billion from $7.72 billion due to foreign exchange movements.

Analysts have forecast, on average, adjusted EPS of 71 cents on $7.71 billion in revenue, according to FactSet Research Systems Inc.

Analysts and investors also will be looking Wednesday for an update on the U.S. launch of Abbott's glucose monitoring system, FreeStyle Libre.

Abbott launched the system in Europe in 2014, and the device clinched approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in September. The company in January announced the product had obtained Medicare reimbursement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

During Abbott's first-quarter call in April, White said the U.S. launch had gone "exceptionally well," noting the device already had a little over 50,000 U.S. users.

Shares of Abbott rose 1.7% on Tuesday to $62.80. The stock is up 10% in 2018 and 28.8% over the past 12 months.

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