Biogen's

fourth-quarter profits fell 18% as the biotech company took a one-time charge of $20 million to settle a patent infringement suit.

On Thursday, Biogen reported fourth-quarter net income of $59 million, or 39 cents a share, compared with net income of $72 million, or 47 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.

The biotech said it has settled a long-standing legal dispute with Berlex Laboratories, owned by German drugmaker

Schering

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, over a patent infringement claim related to the manufacture of Avonex, its multiple sclerosis drug. Biogen is paying Berlex $20 million as part of the settlement, which is being accounted for as a one-time charge totaling 9 cents a share in the fourth quarter.

Excluding the charge, Biogen earned 48 cents a share in the fourth quarter, matching Wall Street estimates.

Fourth-quarter revenue totaled $280 million, compared with $245 million in the year-ago quarter. Sales of Avonex reached $259 million in the quarter.

For the full year, Avonex sales grew 28% to $972 million, compared with sales of $761 million for 2000.

Biogen reiterated previous financial guidance for 2002 operating earnings of $1.90 to $2 a share, and first-quarter earnings of 45 cents to 48 cents a share.

Analysts are looking for first-quarter earnings of 49 cents a share and 2002 earnings of $1.96 a share.

Biogen shares closed Wednesday at $54.97 a share.