Updated from 8:07 a.m. EDTAbbott Laboratories ( ABT - Get Report) released financial results and earnings guidance Thursday that essentially matched analysts' projections. The news was good enough to push the stock up 43 cents, or 1%, to $41.58. The company reported earnings of $835.1 million, or 53 cents a share, based on continuing operations and excluding one-time charges. Analysts had been expecting Abbott to produce a third-quarter profit of $826 million, or 53 cents a share, according to a poll by Thomson First Call. Abbott said the EPS for the three months ended Sept. 30 was within its guidance of 51 cents to 53 cents. Abbott also said third-quarter revenue was $4.68 billion, barely above the Thomson First Call consensus of $4.66 billion. All of the third-quarter results represented gains from the same period last year. For the 2003 period, Abbott earned $768.4 million, or 49 cents a share, from continuing operations and excluding one-time charges. Revenue was $4.25 billion. The comparisons for the current third quarter and year-ago third quarter also exclude sales and earnings related to the company's hospital products business, which was spun off in May 2004 as the independent Hospira ( HSP). "Overall, the pharmaceuticals business looked quite strong in the quarter," said Glenn Reicin, of Morgan Stanley, in a Thursday research report. Reicin, who has an overweight rating on the stock, said the whole corporate quarter was strong. (He doesn't own shares; his firm has had an investment banking relationship with Abbott in the last 12 months). The third quarter was paced by the rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira, which recorded $227 million in sales, a jump of 189% over the same period last year. Executives told analysts during a telephone conference call Thursday that the company plans to begin later this year a phase III test -- the last clinical trial before seeking federal approval -- of Humira as a treatment for psoriasis. Abbott also plans to seek regulatory approval for Humira as a treatment for psoriatic arthritis and early rheumatoid arthritis by year-end. The company will release phase III clinical trial data on these indications at a medical conference next week. Although no product could match the giant gain by Humira, Abbott noted that several big-selling drugs each recorded third-quarter sales gains of 20% or more compared to the same period last year. These drugs included the HIV treatment Kaletra, up 22% to $224 million and the cholesterol management drug TriCor, up 36% to $208 million. Sales of the thyroid disease treatment Synthroid fell 6% to $163 million from the year-ago quarter due to generic competitions. The company said the decline was "within Abbott's range of expectations." Also on Thursday, Abbott provided for the first time financial guidance for the fourth quarter, predicting that EPS from continuing operations would be in the range of 66 cents to 68 cents, excluding one-time charges. The consensus view of analysts polled by Thomson First Call is for an EPS of 67 cents. Abbott said its GAAP earnings projection was 61 cents to 63 cents for the quarter. Abbott reiterated that it expects one-time charges this year to trim 25 cents a share from its 2004 fiscal year earnings from continuing operations due to the Hospira spin-off and Abbott's recent acquisition of EAS, a nutrition products firm. Twenty cents of those charges were recorded in the first nine months; 5 cents will be recorded in the fourth quarter.
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