Updated from 11 a.m. EDT

Genzyme ( symbol) reported Thursday that first-quarter earnings and sales slightly exceeded consensus estimates by Wall Street analysts but issued mixed guidance for the second-quarter and full-year periods.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based biotechnology company said it earned $85.6 million, or 37 cents a share, on revenue of $491.3 million for the three months ended March 31. The earnings exclude special items and amortization relating to two acquisitions.

The consensus of analysts polled by Thomson First Call was predicting first-quarter earnings of $77.9 million, or 37 cents a share, on revenue of $472.5 million.

When special items are included, Genzyme earned $67.9 million, or 29 cents a share, compared with a profit of $61.9 million, or 28 cents a share, for the same period last year. Comparisons with the first quarter of 2003 are difficult because Genzyme was still reporting results from three different tracking stocks for the first and second quarters of 2003. The company ended the tracking stocks on June 30 and consolidated all of its financial results; but first quarter 2003 results reflect only the former Genzyme General, one of the three entities with tracking stocks.

The company said it was predicting a 2004 second-quarter profit -- excluding special items -- in the range of 39 cents to 41 cents. The consensus Wall Street view is 42 cents. (The earnings prediction based on generally accepted accounting principles is 32 cents to 34 cents.)

Responding to an analyst's question during a telephone conference call, Henri A. Termeer, Genzyme's chairman and CEO, said the second-quarter EPS guidance wasn't a low-ball estimate. "When we put out guidance, we mean it," said Termeer. "We try to be as accurate as possible. This was a good, solid estimate."

Termeer also reaffirmed Genzyme's full-year EPS guidance of $1.65 to $1.75. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call have an average estimate of $1.71, with a wide range of $1.63 to $1.83.

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