Updated from 9:09 a.m. EDT

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

posted first-quarter earnings that matched Wall Street expectations but fell below year-ago numbers.

The company earned $621 million, or 32 cents a share, from continuing operations for the three months ended March 31. Revenue was $4.53 billion. For the first quarter of 2004, the company earned $964 million, or 49 cents a share, from continuing operations, on revenue of $4.63 billion.

Excluding one-time items, Bristol-Myers Squibb earned 34 cents a share from continuing operations, matching Thomson First Call consensus estimates.

"Our first quarter financial results were in line with the portfolio transition that we've been discussing for some time," said Peter R. Dolan, chairman and CEO, in a prepared statement. Dolan told investors and analysts during a telephone conference call that the company expects to return to sales and earnings growth in 2007.

The company reaffirmed its previous full-year earnings per share guidance of $1.35 to $1.45 from continuing operations, excluding one-time charges. The consensus among analysts polled by Thomson First Call is a full-year EPS of $1.40.

The company's revenue picture continues to be affected by the erosion of sales of older drugs that have lost patent protection. Bristol-Myers Squibb said it expects "substantial incremental revenue losses in 2005" due to the lingering generic competition impact on products that lost patent protection in 2003 and 2004 as well on drugs that will lose patent protection this year.

This year, the company expects sales to fall by $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion from last year's level due to generic competition. Although this decline in sales was to be expected, the company noted that uncertainty surrounds Plavix, its best-selling drug which produced $3.3 billion in sales last year.

The key patent for Plavix, which prevents blood platelets from clotting and thus causing heart attack and stroke, is in force through 2011. The validity of the patent is being challenged in the U.S. and other countries. Bristol-Myers Squibb and its partner


(SNY) - Get Report

are fighting the challenges in court. If they lose, generic competition would have a devastating effect on Bristol-Myers Squibb, which says it expects "substantial" increases in sales from Plavix.

Plavix's first-quarter 2005 sales were $814 million, up 17% from the same period last year. The HIV drug Sustiva grew by 24% to $173 million. Sales for another HIV drug Reyataz grew by 99% to $149 million. Abilify, an antipsychotic, grew by 63% to $188 million.

Big sales declines were posted by the oncology drugs Taxol, down 16% to $205 million, and Paraplatin, down 81% to $44 million. But sales of Bristol-Myers Squibb's share of Erbitux, the colon cancer drug it is co-marketing with

ImClone Systems


, rose to $87 million from $17 million.

Other products under siege from generic and/or brand-name competition include the cholesterol drug, Pravachol, whose sales fell by 23% to $520 million and the Glucophage family of diabetes medications, whose sales dropped by 73% to $43 million.

The company said it cut administrative expenses by 4% during the first quarter and repatriated $6 billion in earnings from foreign subsidiaries for domestic use. Bristol-Myers Squibb is taking advantage of a 2004 law that allows sharply reduces taxes for such repatriation. The company expects to repatriate another $3 billion in overseas earnings later this year.

Bristol-Myers Squibb's stock was off 7 cents to $25.69.