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Gilead Sciences

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continued its streak of profitable quarters, helped along by strong sales of its anti-HIV drug Viread.

The Foster City, Calif.-based biotech firm, which recently acquired Triangle Pharmaceuticals, said fourth-quarter earnings totaled $35.5 million, or 17 cents a share, compared with a profit of $131.6 million, or 62 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Last year's fourth-quarter profit was bolstered by a one-time gain of $158 million related to the sale of its oncology business.

Fourth-quarter earnings beat the consensus Wall Street estimate by 2 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.

Before its earnings report, Gilead shares closed Thursday up 37 cents, or 1%, at $36.64.

Viread sales in the quarter totaled $85 million, up 23% sequentially and above Wall Street estimates of about $80 million.

Total revenue in the quarter rose 95% to $145 million, including net product sales of $139.2 million. Fourth-quarter sales of the antifungal Ambisome rose 16% from the year-ago quarter, to $49.6 million, although favorable foreign currency exchange accounted for just over half the percentage gain. Gilead did not break out sales of its new hepatitis B drug, Hepsera, which it launched at the end of September.

For the year, Gilead earned $72.1 million, or 35 cents per share. That compares with net income of $52.3 million, or 26 cents per share, in 2001, although again, 2001 was profitable only because of the one-time gain from the sale of Gilead's oncology business.

Gilead didn't offer any specific earnings guidance, and is not expected to do so until its first-quarter conference call, due to the just-closed Triangle deal. Analysts are currently expecting Gilead to earn 69 cents a share in 2003.

Gilead completed the acquisition of Triangle for $464 million in cash on Jan. 23, combining the two firms that focus on drugs to treat HIV and other infectious diseases.