Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

reported Wednesday that fourth-quarter operating profits rose 21%, bolstered by strong drug sales.

The world's No. 1 drugmaker reported net income from continuing operations of $2.1 billion, or 34 cents per share, in the fourth quarter. These earnings, which exclude certain items and merger-related costs, matched Wall Street estimates.

Including all charges, Pfizer said fourth-quarter net income rose 38% to $1.96 billion, or 30 cents a share, compared with $1.42 billion, or 23 cents a share, a year earlier.

Pfizer reiterated the financial guidance for 2002 it offered in December, stating again that it expects to earn $1.56 to $1.60 per share, a range that would represent at least 19% earnings growth from the $1.31 per share earned in 2001.

Wall Street is expecting 2002 earnings of $1.59 per share, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.

Unlike rivals

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

,

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Eli Lilly

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and

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, Pfizer has not yet been hit by the loss of patents on top-selling drugs. Pfizer said it expects to maintain at least 15% annual earnings growth through 2004.

Fourth-quarter revenue grew 12% to $9 billion. Pfizer's drug sales in the fourth quarter totaled $7.2 billion, a 14% increase over the year-ago quarter.

Lipitor, the company's cholesterol fighter and top-selling drug, racked up fourth-quarter sales of $1.88 billion, a 31% increase from the fourth quarter last year.

Fourth-quarter sales of the impotence drug Viagra rose 7% to $251 million from the year-ago quarter; while sales of the anti-depressant Zoloft rose 10% to $646 million.

On the flip side, sales of Pfizer's new antipsychotic drug Geodon were disappointing, totaling $38 million in the fourth quarter. Lehman Brothers analyst Tony Butler was looking for Geodon sales of $52 million, while Deutsche Banc's Barbara Ryan was expecting Geodon sales of $39 million.

For the full year 2001, Pfizer said net income rose 28% from 2000, to $8.31 billion, or $1.31 a share.

Shares of Pfizer closed Tuesday at $40.80.