Strong sales of its HIV drugs helped

Gilead Sciences

(GILD) - Get Report

cruise past Wall Street's earnings target for the fourth quarter.

The Foster City, Calif.-based biopharmaceutical firm reported netincome of $568.2 million, or 60 cents a share, up from $401.6 million,or 41 cents a share in the year-ago quarter.

On an adjusted basis, Gilead earned 63 cents a share in the fourthquarter, a year over year increase of 43% that topped the consensusanalyst estimate of 57 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Gilead said income tax benefits in the fourth quarter increasedadjusted earnings by 4 cents a share.

On its conference call Tuesday night, Gilead forecast 2009 total product sales in the range of $5.9 billion to $6 billion. The guidance was below current consensus total product sales guidance of $6.2 billion. Expense guidance for 2009 was largely in line with expectations.

Total revenue in the quarter came in at $1.43 billion, up 30% fromone year ago and in line with Wall Street forecasts.

Gilead is the market leader when it comes to the sale of drugs forthe treatment of HIV, and the performance of those drugs did notdisappoint in the fourth quarter.

Total antiviral sales (which includes HIV and hepatitis B) rose 35%to $1.27 million in the quarter. Of note, sales of Atripla totaled$465.5 million, up 79% year over year, while sales of Truvada rose 25%to $562.1 million. Atripla sales fell a bit short of analyst forecasts,but Truvada exceeded expectations.

The company also reported worldwide revenue of $76.4 million fromHepsera, $75.9 million from Ambisome and $36.1 million for Letairis.

Fellow big-cap biotech firm

Genentech

(DNA)

reportedweaker-than-expected fourth-quarters earnings Jan. 15.

Amgen

(AMGN) - Get Report

reported a largely in-line quarter Monday and

Celgene

(CELG) - Get Report

reports Thursday." EXCHANGE="Nasdaq" Primary="NO"/> reports Thursday.

At the time of publication, Feuerstein's Biotech Select model portfolio was long DNA, GILD and CELG.

Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback;

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