NEW YORK Healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson reported better-than-expected third-quarter results on Tuesday, as newer drugs, including a treatment for prostate cancer, led a rebound in sales and investor jitters about medical device sales proved unfounded.
J&J, whose products span artificial hips and over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol, is showing signs of dependable sales growth after several years of navigating costly product recalls and the loss of patent protection on major brand-name drugs.
Its performance has been helped by the launch of prescription drugs like Zytiga for prostate cancer and Incivek for hepatitis C, which it sells abroad under license from Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc, as well as the nearly $20 billion purchase of Swiss medical device maker Synthes earlier this year.
"Things can't help but look more positive for the company with today's results," said Piper Jaffray analyst Matt Miksic, who noted it was the first time in a year that J&J had beaten Wall Street sales estimates.
Earnings per share before special items topped expectations, and revenue also beat Wall Street estimates. For a graphic, see: link.reuters.com/wef43t
Third-quarter global sales of prescription drugs jumped 7 percent to $6.4 billion, helped by Zytiga and double-digit gains for cancer, arthritis, psoriasis and HIV treatments. That compared with drug-sales growth of less than 1 percent in the prior quarter.
Miksic said investors had feared that sales of J&J's medical devices and diagnostics would sink in the quarter after Edwards Lifesciences Corp earlier this month warned of weaker-than-expected heart valve sales, spurring fears of a fresh slowdown in demand for the broader industry.
Global sales of J&J's medical device business rose 12.5 percent to $7.1 billion, helped by the addition of revenue from Synthes devices. Excluding the Synthes contribution and the negative impact of a stronger dollar, J&J's underlying device sales were nearly flat.
"Investors were concerned there would be a softening of demand for devices," Miksic said, especially in Europe, "but there was no evidence of that."
Shares in J&J were up 1.3 percent, in line with the broader ARCA Pharmaceutical Index of U.S. and European drugmakers. Since the beginning of the year, company shares have risen about 6 percent, underperforming a 16.5 percent jump for the industry index.
CONSUMER PRODUCT RECALLS REMAIN AN OVERHANG
J&J said sales of consumer products slipped 4.3 percent to $3.6 billion as dozens of over the counter medicines, including children's Tylenol and Motrin painkillers, remained unavailable or in short supply due to recalls over the past three years linked to quality control lapses.
The company is making costly upgrades to its consumer healthcare plants in the United States under federal supervision and has said it hopes to restore many brands to store shelves this year and next.
Morningstar analyst Damien Conover said he does not expect the factories to reach full production until 2014, an overhang that has kept many investors at bay. But he was encouraged by improving trends for J&J's other businesses.
"We're starting to see an overall inflection point in company sales growth, with pharmaceuticals leading the charge," he said.
The company earned $3.0 billion, or $1.05 per share, in the third quarter, compared with $3.2 billion, or $1.15 per share, in the year-earlier period.
Excluding special items, J&J earned $1.25 per share. Analysts, on average, expected $1.21 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 6.5 percent to $17.1 billion, topping Wall Street expectations of $16.97 billion. Sales would have risen 10.8 percent if not for the stronger dollar, which hurts the value of revenues in overseas markets.
J&J slightly raised its full-year profit forecast to between $5.05 and $5.10 per share, excluding items, from $5.00 to $5.07 per share.
(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Michele Gershberg, Jeffrey Benkoe and Carol Bishopric)