Boston Scientific ( BSX) previewed fourth-quarter sales that are slightly above the Wall Street consensus. However, James Tobin, the company's CEO, said regulatory issues in Japan will have an impact on 2005's results. The company declined to discuss earnings for 2004, saying a formal financial report will be issued Feb. 1. The Thomson First Call consensus forecasts fourth-quarter EPS of 48 cents and full-year EPS of $1.62. Preliminary net sales for the three months ended Dec. 31 were $1.6 billion vs. the consensus view on Wall Street of $1.55 billion, according to Thomson First Call. The company reported $939 million in sales for the fourth quarter of 2003. The company said preliminary worldwide sales of coronary stent systems for the fourth quarter were $730 million, compared with $154 million for the fourth quarter of 2003. Preliminary worldwide sales of the Taxus drug-coated stent were $691 million for the quarter, with U.S. Taxus sales accounting for $503 million. Boston Scientific is competing with Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) for the fast-growing drug-coated stent market. Medtronic ( MDT), Guidant ( GDT), Abbott Laboratories ( ABT) and Conor Medsystems ( CONR) also are developing drug-coated stents. Tobin said regulatory delays in Japan for Taxus and "recent government-mandated, industrywide pricing reductions for medical devices" will affect Boston Scientific's performance. The company is scheduled to launch Taxus in Japan in 2006. Tobin estimated the loss of revenue will cause a decline of approximately $70 million in Japan operating income in 2005.