Abbott sticks to 2012 view, despite stronger dollar

Wed Jul 18, 2012 4:12pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Abbott Laboratories Inc (ABT.N) reported quarterly earnings roughly in line with Wall Street expectations and stuck to its 2012 profit view despite the harsh effects of the stronger dollar, in contrast to its larger rival Johnson & Johnson.

Global sales rose 2 percent to $9.81 billion, narrowly missing expectations of $9.84 billion. They would have risen 6.7 percent if not for the stronger dollar, which hurts the values of sales in overseas markets.

Quarterly results for J&J (JNJ.N), which also derives much of its sales overseas, were mauled by currency trends. The company on Tuesday cut its 2012 profit view due to a rebound for the dollar. Likewise, medical device maker St. Jude Medical Inc (STJ.N) on Wednesday cut its full-year outlook, largely due to the burgeoning greenback.

But Abbott reaffirmed it expects full-year 2012 earnings, excluding special items, of $5.00 to $5.10 per share. That would reflect 9.4 percent growth from 2011 results.

Jefferies and Co analyst Jeffrey Holford said he was impressed that Abbott maintained its profit view "despite worsening currency headwinds".

Abbott Chief Financial Officer Thomas Freyman, in a conference call with analysts, said the company is somewhat less prey to currency movements than other healthcare companies because many of its factories are located overseas.

"That helps us be a little less exposed," Freyman said.

Glenn Novarro, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said Abbott is one of the very few companies he follows that will be able to maintain its profit forecasts this year.

While a stronger dollar may hurt the value of Abbott sales overseas, Novarro said it also lowers the costs of its operations in those regions. "So Abbott's geographic footprint creates a natural hedge against a rising U.S. dollar."

HUMIRA BOLSTERS FAITH

Another main reason for Abbott's confidence of strong earnings for the rest of the year is Humira, its treatment for rheumatoid arthritis that continues to grow like gangbusters in its 10th year on the market.

The injectable drug's sales jumped 16.5 percent to $2.33 billion. Without the dollar's negative impact, sales would have surged 23 percent.

"Fundamentals continue to support this level of growth," Freyman said.

Humira is expected this year to overtake Pfizer Inc's (PFE.N) Lipitor cholesterol fighter to become the world's top-selling medicine. But it is facing growing competition from other treatments, including a pill being developed by Pfizer.

The diversified healthcare company said on Wednesday it earned $1.73 billion, or $1.08 per share, in the second quarter. That compared with $1.94 billion, or $1.23 per share, in the year-earlier period, when Abbott recorded big tax-related gains.

Excluding special charges, Abbott earned $1.23 per share. Analysts, on average, expected $1.22 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales of branded drugs rose 4.9 percent to $4.38 billion in the second quarter.

In October, Abbott announced plans to spin out its patent-protected branded medicines into a new publicly traded company called AbbVie. When completed by late 2012, it would be the largest-ever separation transaction in the healthcare sector.

It will take the form of a tax-free distribution to Abbott shareholders of AbbVie shares. Abbott, left with its wide array of medical devices and diagnostics, nutritional products and generic medicines, would continue to be headed by longtime Chief Executive Miles White.

Sales of Androgel, a topical gel used to raise the levels of male hormone testosterone, rose almost 25 percent to $284 million.

The company's Xience heart stent posted sales of $400 million, a 2 percent increase.

Abbott's nutritional products showed strength, with sales growing 6.3 percent to $1.58 billion despite the foreign exchange hurdles.

Abbott shares dipped 0.8 percent to $65.93, while the ARCA Pharmaceutical Index .DRG of large U.S. and European drugmakers rose 0.3 percent.

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Jeffrey Benkoe and Andrew Hay)

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