Pfizer Sales Stay Strong

Lipitor helps balm the pain of Celebrex and Bextra.
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Updated from 7:28 a.m. EDT

Pfizer's

(PFE) - Get Report

first-quarter earnings slid sharply from a year ago because of huge charges to repatriate foreign earnings and pay for the suspension of its Bextra painkiller.

The shares fell 16 cents to $27.44 in early trading.

Backing out special items, Pfizer's earnings rose 1% from a year ago to $4.0 billion, or 54 cents a share, beating Wall Street estimates by a penny. Sales rose 5% to $13.09 billion, about $500 million better than expected.

Pfizer tweaked its full-year 2005 guidance to reflect an expense of 15 cents a share for the suspension of Bextra and associated writeoffs. The impact was lessened by the postponement of stock option expensing following an

SEC

-sanctioned delay of accounting rules last week.

Pfizer now expects adjusted earnings of $14.7 billion, or $1.98 a share, for the year, compared with a not-altogether comparable Thomson First Call consensus of $1.97 a share.

The company forecast double-digit earnings growth in 2006, including "renewed growth" for Celebrex. For 2007, it sees "accelerating double-digit earnings growth."

In the company's main unit, human health, sales rose 4% from a year ago to $11.44 billion. Among its major sellers, Pfizer said, revenue from cholesterol treatment Lipitor rose 23% from a year ago to $3.07 billion; revenue from hypertension treatment Norvasc rose 3% to $1.18 billion; revenue from antidepressant Zoloft rose 4% to $845 million; revenue from antibiotic Zitrhomax rose 71% to $797 million; and revenue from impotence treatment Viagra rose 5% to $438 million.

The main drag on top-line growth was the company's troubled arthritis franchise, where sales of Celebrex tumbled 47% to $411 million in the quarter and sales of Bextra tanked 79% to $56 million.

"While a reduced outlook for the Cox 2-specific medicines and the loss of exclusivity for a number of important products will make 2005 a transition year for Pfizer, the strong performance across our broad portfolio of patent-protected medicines during the first quarter indicates that our core human health business remains fundamentally sound," Pfizer said.