J&J hit by strong dollar, CEO eyes pruning units

Tue Jul 17, 2012 4:44pm EDT

A first aid kit made by Johnson & Johnson for sale on a store shelf in Westminster, Colorado April 14, 2009. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

A first aid kit made by Johnson & Johnson for sale on a store shelf in Westminster, Colorado April 14, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking

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(Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) reported lower-than-expected quarterly sales and cut its full-year 2012 profit forecast due to the stronger dollar as its new chief executive vowed to be disciplined in paring slow-growing businesses.

The diversified healthcare company in April had raised its full-year 2012 profit forecast by about 2 cents per share in the face of a weakening dollar, which raises the value of sales in overseas markets.

A stronger dollar is especially punishing to companies like J&J that derive most sales outside the United States.

But J&J on Tuesday switched gears and trimmed its full-year forecast by 7 to 10 cents per share, citing a turnaround in the dollar's direction. It now expects $5 to $5.07 per share, little different from its earnings-per-share profit last year of $5.

In the face of likely flat earnings this year, new J&J Chief Executive Alex Gorsky said his top goals include a continuing rebound of the company's prescription drug business and reintroducing to U.S. drugstores many J&J over-the-counter medicines that have been recalled in the past three years because of quality-control lapses. They include various versions of painkillers Tylenol and Motrin.

"We're firmly focused on remediation of the over-the-counter business," he said in a two-hour conference call with industry analysts, referring to ongoing efforts to revamp a Pennsylvania factory where many of the recalled products were made.

READIES PARING KNIFE

Morningstar analyst Damien Conover said some investors have been hoping that Gorsky, a former company vice chairman who took the helm on April 26, will divest some significant non-pharmaceuticals businesses -- following the lead of rivals such as Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (BMY.N) and Pfizer Inc (PFE.N).

But Conover said Gorsky, in the conference call, suggested he would only be trimming at the edges.

"Gorsky's strategic vision seemed very similar to Bill Weldon," Conover said, referring to the former J&J CEO. "His comments suggest he will continue the diversified approach" of offering a wide array of prescription drugs, medical devices and consumer products.

Even so, Gorsky suggested he would be open to paring some of J&J's slower-growing operations or ones that no longer fit the company's overall business strategy.

"We will be more selective in what areas we'll be or not be in," he said during the call. "We have to be more decisive going forward."

J&J said two late-stage trials of the Alzheimer's disease treatment it is developing with Pfizer, called bapineuzumab, have been completed and data from them will become available in September. Eli Lilly and Co (LLY.N) is expected in coming months to unveil results from Phase III trials of its similar Alzheimer's medicine. Both drugs work by attacking amyloid protein plaques that build up in the brains of patients with the memory-robbing disease.

Researchers on Tuesday released favorable data from a far smaller trial of a different type of Alzheimer's medicine being developed by Baxter International Inc (BAX.N). In four Alzheimer's patients taking Baxter's immune system therapy, the disease was shown to have stabilized for at least three years.

Johnson & Johnson earned $1.41 billion, or 50 cents per share, in the second quarter. That compared with $2.78 billion, or $1 per share a year ago. Quarterly sales fell 0.7 percent to $16.48 billion, shy of Wall Street expectations of $16.69 billion.

Excluding a number of big charges, J&J earned $1.30 per share in the most recent period. Analysts, on average, expected $1.29 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

J&J took charges of $2.2 billion in the most recent quarter related to the write-down of research assets of its Crucell vaccines business, increased litigation costs related to probes of how it marketed its Risperdal schizophrenia drug and costs of its recent acquisition of Swiss medical device maker Synthes.

"When viewed altogether, we see J&J's performance as solid, and we continue to expect to see a gradual acceleration across all of the core businesses" through the rest of 2012 and into 2013, Sanford Bernstein analyst Derrick Sung said in a research note.

J&J's international sales slipped 0.4 percent to $9.11 billion, but would have risen 7.1 percent if not for the stronger dollar. Domestic sales fell 1.2 percent to $7.36 billion.

Sales in J&J's consumer division, hurt by the continuing absence of many of its consumer medicines in the United States, fell 4.6 percent to $3.62 billion.

Pharmaceutical sales rose 0.9 percent to $6.29 billion but would have grown 5.1 percent if not for the stronger dollar. Sales were boosted by rheumatoid arthritis drug Remicade, HIV drug Prezista and prostate cancer treatment Zytiga.

Sales of J&J's medical devices and diagnostics slipped 0.1 percent to $6.6 billion.

J&J shares were up 0.7 percent to $68.94 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson and Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Phil Berlowitz and Ciro Scotti)

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