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Warner-Lambert Soars Past Estimates

Its cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor continued to drive sales.
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In the midst of its embattled search for a merger partner,



reported fourth-quarter and 1999 earnings that exceeded expectations.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, net income rose to $487.3 million, or 55 cents a diluted share, from $348.7 million, or 40 cents a share, a year earlier. The Morris Plains, N.J.-based pharmaceuticals firm was expected to earn 52 cents, according to analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial


Net sales rose to $3.5 billion from $3.0 billion a year ago. According to the company, that figure was not inflated by patients stocking up on drugs before Y2K, as some analysts had expected.

For 1999, net income rose to $1.7 billion, or $1.96 a diluted share, from $1.3 billion, or $1.45 a share, a year earlier, beating the First Call figure by 3 cents.

Net sales were up 20.3%, to $12.9 billion from $10.7 billion. Pharmaceutical sales, Warner-Lambert's largest business segment, increased 30%, to $8 billion from $6.1 billion in 1998. Its cholesterol-lowering drug


continued to drive those sales, increasing 71% worldwide to $3.7 billion. Lipitor, which Warner-Lambert has threatened to stop marketing jointly with


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in the wake of an acrimonious potential

merger , has a 42% share of new prescriptions in the cholesterol-lowering market.

Figures for prior quarters were restated to include the results of operations of

Agouron Pharmaceuticals

, acquired on May 17.

Research and development spending was up 18.7%, to $356.6 million from $300.4 million. That figure should increase by 19% in 2000, to about $1.5 billion, Lodewijk de Vink, chairman, president and chief executive of Warner-Lambert, said in a statement.

Also, the company revised its 2000 earnings projects upward, forecasting earnings per share growth of 25% to $2.45, 12 cents higher than the First Call estimate.

Warner-Lambert shares closed Tuesday trading at 90, down 3 11/16, or 4%. In premarket trading, shares were up 2 3/4, or 3%, to 92 3/4, possibly on speculation that the company may cut a

deal with

Procter & Gamble

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. (Warner-Lambert closed Wednesday up 4 13/16, or 5.35%, at 94 13/16.)