Updated from 9:25 a.m. ESTSchering-Plough ( SGP) reported a fourth-quarter profit that was in line with Wall Street estimates and revenue that was stronger than expected, but its shares slipped. Unlike its peers that have announced fourth-quarter results, Schering-Plough didn't offer specific guidance for 2007. Excluding special items, Schering-Plough earned 17 cents for the fourth quarter, identical to the forecast of analysts polled by Thomson First Call. For this year, the Wall Street consensus is a profit $1.07, excluding one-time items. "In 2007, we look forward to further advances in becoming the long-term, high-performance company of our aspirations," said Fred Hassan, chairman and CEO. Schering-Plough's stock was off 18 cents, or 0.7%, to $24.91 on heavier-than-average trading. When items are included, Schering-Plough earned $182 million, or 12 cents a share, for the fourth quarter vs. a profit of $104 million, or 7 cents, for the year-ago quarter. Revenue rose to $2.65 billion from $2.3 billion, and the latest quarter beat the consensus of $2.53 billion. The company's accounting excludes its 50% share of sales from its joint venture with Merck ( MRK). The companies have an agreement in which they sell Zetia, cholesterol drug from Schering-Plough, and Vytorin, which combines Zetia and Merck's Zocor. For the fourth quarter, Schering-Plough's revenue from its share of the joint venture was $541 million, up from $378 million in the year-ago quarter. For the full year, Schering-Plough's revenue portion was $1.92 billion, up from $1.2 billion in 2005.
Hassan and other executives told analysts Monday that they expect sales of Vytorin and Zetia to grow even though more companies are producing generic versions of Zocor. Analysts say makers of brand-name cholesterol drugs, such as Pfizer ( PFE) with Lipitor, face sales-growth pressure because insurers are encouraging doctors and patients to use cheaper, generic versions of Zocor. Schering-Plough's top sellers in recent quarters were again the biggest contributors in the fourth quarter. Sales of Remicade rose 34% from the prior year to $337 million. Remicade is approved for several inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis Schering-Plough sells Remicade in all markets outside the U.S., Japan and several Asian markets. The Nasonex nasal spray for allergies enjoyed a 37% gain to $253 million. The hepatitis C drug Peg-Intron produced $208 million in sales, down 3%. The brain cancer drug Temodar added 18% to $189 million. "One of our prime objectives has been to build multiple growth drivers and not be dependent on a single product," Hassan said.