Updated from 8:48 a.m. ESTAbbott Laboratories ( ABT) matched Wall Street's fourth-quarter earnings estimates Wednesday and reiterated its forecast for double-digit profit growth in 2009. The diagnostics, medical devices and drug maker reported net income for the fourth quarter of $1.54 billion, or 98 cents a share, compared with net income of $1.2 billion, or 77 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Excluding special items, Abbott reported a 14% increase in earnings per share to $1.06 in the fourth quarter, in line with the Street's consensus estimate. Fourth-quarter revenue rose 10% to $7.95 billion, essentially matching the consensus analyst forecast of $8 billion. Abbott reported revenue of $7.22 billion in the year-ago quarter. Abbott reiterated its 2009 earnings forecast, first offered Jan. 12, in the range of $3.65 to $3.70 a share on both a GAAP and adjusted basis. At the time, Wall Street was expecting earnings of $3.66 a share. The midpoint of Abbott's guidance represents 10% growth over 2008 adjusted earnings of $3.32 a share. Abbott's 2009 earnings outlook includes the company's planned $2.8 billion purchase of eye care company Advanced Medical Optics ( EYE). The bullish forecast offered by Abbott management stands in contrast with diversified health care giant Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ), which said Tuesday that this year's revenue would fall from the reported 2008 level, the company's first annual revenue decline in 75 years. Johnson & Johnson blamed the recession, which is forcing consumers to spend less on health care products, both prescription drugs and consumer products.
Returning to Abbott's fourth-quarter results, worldwide pharmaceutical sales increased nearly 10% to $4.6 billion, supported by strong growth in drugs like Humira, Niaspan and the TriCor/Trilipix franchise. Global sales of Humira, a rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis drug, totaled $1.3 billion in the quarter. Worldwide medical product sales rose almost 16%, led by 59% sales growth in global vascular sales to $663 million, including the Xience V drug-eluting stent. Global nutritional sales rose 11% to $1.3 billion. Shares of Abbott were up 3.5% at $50.94 in recent trading.