* EPS $0.47 ex-items vs. $0.41 Wall St forecast
* Bristol, Lilly reach deal on ImClone lung cancer drug
* Bristol, AstraZeneca file for Onglyza/metformin pill
* Shares up 0.2 percent (Adds analyst comment, share movement)
By Ransdell Pierson
NEW YORK, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY.N) reported stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings, helped by sharply lower taxes and cost cuts, and it forecast 2010 profit in line with Wall Street expectations.
The company said it had settled a long-simmering dispute with Eli Lilly and Co (LLY.N). The two rivals will work together to develop a promising experimental lung-cancer drug that Lilly acquired through its purchase of biotechnology company ImClone Systems in late 2008.
Bristol-Myers reported fourth-quarter net income of $8.03 billion, or $4.06 per share, including a $7.2 billion after-tax gain from the split-off of its Mead Johnson nutritionals business late last year. Year-earlier earnings were $1.24 billion, or 63 cents per share.
Excluding special items, Bristol-Myers earned 47 cents per share. Analysts on average expected 41 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The earnings beat was largely due to a favorable tax rate, an ongoing cost-savings program and sales growth, the company said.
“Bristol has a fairly in-line quarter, but its stock has been weak lately and could rebound a bit on the results,” said Hapoalim Securities analyst Jon LeCroy. The company’s shares up 0.2 percent in early trading.
Global sales from continuing operations rose 11 percent to $5.03 billion, but would have risen only 7 percent if not for the weaker dollar. Thomson Reuters expected sales of $4.99 billion, excluding Mead Johnson operations.
Sales of blood-clot preventer Plavix rose 10 percent to $1.62 billion. Bristol-Myers, which markets the pill with Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA), is racing to cut costs and acquire new products before its top-selling product faces U.S. generic competition in 2012.
Abilify, used to treat schizophrenia and depression, continued to spearhead company earnings growth, with global sales jumping 17 percent to $707 million.
But sales of Erbitux, used to treat colon cancer and head and neck cancer, fell 8 percent to $167 million.
Bristol-Myers, which held a stake in ImClone and helped it to develop Erbitux, has contended it also shared rights to a lung cancer medicine called necitumumab (IMC-11F8) after Lilly purchased the company. The drug is now in late-stage trials.
Under their new agreement, Bristol-Myers and Lilly together will develop and co-market necitumumab in the United States, Canada and Japan, should it be approved.
Lilly will retain rights in all other countries to the drug, which Cowen and Co has said could garner sales of $300 million in 2015.
Bristol-Myers forecast full-year earnings of $2.15 to $2.25 per share, excluding items, reflecting growth of about 16 percent to 22 percent. Wall Street is expecting $2.19 per share.
Shares of Bristol-Myers were up 0.2 percent at $24.35 on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Ransdell Pierson, editing by Dave Zimmerman and Lisa Von Ahn)