UPDATE 2-Becton Dickinson earnings helped by early flu season

Tue Feb 5, 2013 10:39am EST

* Adjusted operating fiscal Q1 EPS $1.53 vs Street view of $1.24

* Company notes less pricing pressure than expected

* Raises outlook for 2013

* Shares rise as much as 3 pct (Adds CEO comments, financial details, updates stock price)

Feb 5 (Reuters) - Becton Dickinson and Co reported higher-than-expected quarterly earnings on Tuesday, boosted by an early flu season, and the medical technology company raised its outlook for the full year, sending shares to their highest level since July 2011.

Franklin Lakes, New Jersey-based Becton Dickinson makes needles, drug delivery systems and lab equipment used in research and diagnostics. Executives told analysts on a conference call that margins were at the top end of their anticipated range during the latest quarter, partly because of firmer-than-expected pricing of many products.

"Pricing was a little bit better in the first quarter ... We haven't gone back and changed the guidance on pricing yet. We are still watching Europe in particular to see what will happen there," Chairman and Chief Executive Vincent Forlenza said on the call. "We didn't see the price decreases that we thought we might see. It is not a pricing increase so much."

For the fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 31, the company posted net earnings of $625.4 million, or $3.13 per share, compared with $263.0 million, or $1.21 per share, a year earlier.

Earnings per share from continuing operations rose to $1.35 from $1.14 in the year-ago period. On that basis, analysts on average were expecting $1.24, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Lower expenses and fewer shares outstanding contributed to the per-share gains.

Revenue rose 3.7 percent to $1.90 billion, led by sales in the company's Bioscience unit, which sells research and clinical instruments and other tools used in research.

The company said it benefited from some one-time items in the latest quarter. The current quarter ending in March is not expected to benefit materially from flu sales, the company said.

For the full fiscal year, it raised the bottom end of its previously stated revenue growth outlook to 4.0 percent from 3.5 percent, excluding the impact of foreign currency. It kept the top end of the forecast at 4.5 percent.

Earnings per share from continuing operations are expected to grow 7.5 percent to 8.0 percent from fiscal 2012, excluding the impact of currency.

The company also said it planned to repurchase $500 million of its common stock in fiscal 2013.

Becton Dickinson shares were up 2.5 percent at $87.32 in midmorning on Tuesday. Earlier in the session they rose to $87.64, the highest level since July 2011.

(Reporting by Debra Sherman in Chicago; editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Matthew Lewis)

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