(Adds background on Bristol-Myers earnings, additional byline)
By Kristina Cooke and Ransdell Pierson
NEW YORK, May 8 (Reuters) - The chief executive of drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (BMY.N) bought 100,000 company shares in his first open-market purchase since taking the top post nearly two years ago, according to a regulatory filing on Thursday.
James Cornelius purchased $2.3 million worth of stock on Wednesday for $22.70 to $22.92 a share, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
On the same day, the drugmaker said it was evaluating its 2008 earnings forecast and would update its full-year outlook by the end of the second quarter. For details, see [ID:nWNAS2439]
Cornelius, who became chief executive in 2006, is the first insider to directly buy on the open market since at least February 2001, according to insider filing tracker InsiderScore.com.
Bristol-Myers Squibb shares, which were little changed at $22.81 on Thursday, are down 14.3 percent year-to-date.
The chief executive of rival Schering-Plough Corp SGP.N, Fred Hassan, bought about $2 million of his company’s common stock, or 110,000 shares, two weeks ago, keeping an earlier pledge to make the personal investment as a vote of confidence in the struggling drugmaker.
Hassan announced his plans to buy the stock on Jan. 18, after a failed clinical trial of the company’s big-selling Vytorin cholesterol drug spurred a 20 percent decline in the shares that week.
The financial picture of New York-based Bristol-Myers has greatly improved in recent quarters, following the brief U.S. appearance of a generic form of its blockbuster blood clot preventer, Plavix, that badly hurt the branded drug.
U.S. supplies of the generic, made by privately held Canadian drugmaker Apotex, dried up last year after a U.S. judge banned continued shipments of the cheaper copycat. Consequently, first quarter Plavix sales jumped almost 40 percent and sales of other important Bristol-Myers drugs also chalked up solid sales gains.
Bristol last month reaffirmed its full-year 2008 forecast for earnings from continuing operations of $1.60 to $1.70 per share, excluding special items. That translates into growth of as much as 15 percent from last year.
It also stuck to an earlier forecast that earnings would grow by at least 15 percent a year from a 2007 base through 2010.
But analysts cautioned that Bristol-Myers would likely face lower earnings by 2012, after the U.S. patent lapses on Plavix, because revenue from newly introduced products will probably be unable to offset its lost sales. (Additional reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Tom Hals and Andre Grenon)