Genzyme

(GENZ)

Thursday reported fourth-quarter earnings in line with analysts' estimates, but offered 2004 guidance that fell within the lower range of Wall Street predictions.

The company's guidance for 2004 called for earnings of $1.65 to $1.75 a share, excluding amortization. The consensus of analysts polled by Thomson First Call was for $1.74 a share with a range of $1.63 to $1.89 a share.

Genzyme also predicted it would achieve revenue of $1.9 billion to $2 billion this year, up from $1.58 billion in 2003.

In early afternoon trading, shares of the Cambridge, Mass.-based biotechnology company were down to $54.56, a loss of 91 cents, or 1.6%. Trading was erratic. Shares had climbed as high as $58.08 and dropped as low as $53.25

Henri A. Termeer, chairman and chief executive, noted that Genzyme's earnings per share last year of $1.38 -- excluding one-time charges and amortization -- beat the company's original guidance of $1.25 to $1.35. "We expect the momentum to continue this year," Termeer said in a conference call with analysts Thursday.

For the quarter ended Dec. 31, the company earned $66.7 million, or 29 cents a share, compared to a profit of $44.7 million, or 20 cents a share, in the same period in 2002.

Excluding special items and amortization, the company produced earnings of $86.8 million, or 38 cents, meeting the consensus of 23 analysts polled by Thomson First Call. That figure compares to a profit of $74.1 million, or 34 cents a share, in the same period in 2002. Revenue climbed 61% to $482.2 million from $298 million.

The company said its performance was affected in part by the acquisition of

SangStat Medical Corp.

, which caused a pretax expense of $2.9 million for the fourth quarter. The company also took a pretax charge of $3.1 million relating to a commercialization agreement with

Transkaryotic Therapies

(TKTX)

.

Genzyme's earnings were paced by Renagel, a drug for patients with end-stage renal disease on hemodialysis. The company predicted that the drug would produce $325 million to $345 million this year, up from $281.7 million last year. Genzyme said sales growth should be aided by expanding foreign markets and by new clinical guidelines from the National Kidney Foundation.

The company sees even greater percentage growth for Fabrazyme, an enzyme replacement therapy for people with Fabry Disease. This ailment, caused by an enzyme deficiency, can increase a person's risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney problems.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Fabrazyme in April, 2003, leading to $80.6 million in sales last year. This year, Fabrazyme revenue should jump to $170 million to $185 million thanks to new launches in markets such as Japan and Canada, the company said.

Genzyme's biggest seller, Cerezyme for Gaucher's Disease, should grow modestly to a 2004 range of $770 million to $790 million from last year's sales of $738.9 million. Cerezyme is an enzyme replacement therapy for a metabolic disorder that causes a fatty substance to accumulate in multiple organs, increasing a person's risk of anemia, lung and kidney impairments and a weakened skeletal system.

For the full year, Genzyme earned $103.7 million, or 46 cents a share, compared with a profit of $178.5 million, or 81 cents per share, in 2002.

Excluding special items and amortization, the company earned $314.7 million, or $1.39 a share, two cents below the analysts' consensus calculated by Thomson First Call. Genzyme earned $231.6 million, or $1.06 a share, in 2002 when special items and amortization are excluded. Yearly revenue rose 46% to $1.58 billion from $1.08 billion