Shares of Novartis ( NVS) dropped Thursday after the Swiss drug giant reported record results for 2004, which nevertheless failed to meet analysts' expectations. For the fourth quarter, Novartis earned $1.38 billion, or 57 cents a share, on revenue of $7.58 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting EPS of 60 cents. Novartis slightly exceeded their revenue expectation of $7.33 billion. The Thomson First Call poll includes only three analysts. For the same period last year, Novartis earned $1.36 billion, or 55 cents a share, on revenue of $6.73 billion. Shares of the company dropped 87 cents, or 1.81%, to $47.28. "Despite challenging industry conditions, our outlook for 2005 remains strong, and we expect to deliver again a competitive performance with record sales and strong earnings,'' said Dr. Daniel Vasella, chairman and CEO. "Novartis expects to gain further market share in 2005 and remain one of the fastest-growing pharmaceutical companies, delivering high single-digit net sales growth ... in local currencies," the company said. "Barring any unforeseen events ... operating and net income should reach new record levels on a comparable basis." The company noted that it maintains a strong balance sheet with a top credit rating from Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investor Services, making Novartis "one of the few non-financial companies worldwide to have attained the highest rating from these two benchmark rating agencies."