* Q3 sales in line with Wall Street expectations
* Q3 EPS 92 cents ex-items; Wall Street view 90 cents
* Humira sales ahead of targets
* Abbott shares rise 3 percent (Adds stent sales, updates share price)
By Ransdell Pierson and Lewis Krauskopf
NEW YORK, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Abbott Laboratories Inc ABT.N said its third-quarter profit rose 37 percent on strong demand for its Humira arthritis drug and nutritional products, as well as gains from a settlement with Medtronic Inc MDT.N.
The profit reported on Wednesday topped Wall Street forecasts, and revenue was in line with targets, a relief for investors on the heels of a disappointing sales report from rival diversified healthcare company Johnson & Johnson JNJ.N.
Shares of Abbott rose 3 percent as the company also nudged up its full-year profit forecast.
“It was a very solid quarter, and the most important thing is that Humira relieved concerns among investors that it might stall, from its previous rapid growth,” said Morningstar analyst Damien Conover.
Conover said Humira’s continued growth probably gave Abbott confidence to raise its 2009 profit forecast and that other aspects of the earnings report were much as expected.
Abbott said it had earned $1.48 billion, or 95 cents per share, up from $1.09 billion, or 69 cents per share, a year earlier. The results included a gain of $287 million from a previously announced settlement with Medtronic over heart stent technology.
Excluding special items, the third-largest U.S. healthcare company by market value earned 92 cents per share. On that basis, analysts on average expected 90 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Sales rose 3.5 percent to $7.76 billion, in line with Wall Street expectations. Revenue would have risen 8.4 percent if not for the stronger dollar, which lowers the value of overseas sales.
Global prescription drug sales fell 1.6 percent to $4.1 billion, hurt by new generic forms of Abbott’s Depakote anti-seizure medicine. But that represents an improvement over the 4.3 percent decline seen in the second quarter.
Humira sales rose 24 percent to $1.49 billion, about $30 million ahead of Wall Street expectations, according to the average estimate of five analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Sales of Abbott’s drug-coated stents, including Xience, rose 10 percent to about $330 million in the quarter. Company officials predicted Xience, already the market leader, will capture greater share in coming months due to new data showing advantages over rival stents used to prop open heart arteries that have been cleared of plaque.
Abbott's nutritionals business continued to show strength, with sales rising 9.8 percent to $1.39 billion despite the stronger dollar. The company, which is steadily expanding this segment, announced in July it would pay $130 million for the nutrition businesses of Wockhardt Ltd WCKH.BO, whose brands are sold in India.
The Wockhardt transaction is among five significant deals for Abbott this year, as the company aims to lessen its dependence on Humira for future earnings growth.
“The nutritionals business continues to do very well,” said Conover. He speculated that Abbott was trying to “entrench” those products in fast-growing emerging markets and would later move aggressively to introduce lucrative prescription drugs there.
Last month, Abbott said it planned to buy Solvay SA's SOLB.BR pharmaceuticals unit for $6.6 billion in cash. The deal, the second-biggest in Abbott's history, would give it a number of new medicines in late stages of testing, including treatments for Parkinson's disease and other neurological conditions.
Analyst Tim Nelson of FAF Advisors in Minneapolis said Abbott’s ability to meet sales targets and boost its earnings forecast would be a relief to investors.
Abbott shares, now trading at about 12 times expected 2010 per-share earnings, could rise later this year to a price-to-earnings ratio of 13 -- catching up with larger rival Johnson & Johnson, Nelson said.
J&J shares fell 2.4 percent on Tuesday after the company posted weaker-than-expected revenue, on disappointing sales of its prescription drugs and heart stents.
Citing strong results so far this year, Abbott nudged up its full-year profit forecast to between $3.70 and $3.72 per share. Its earlier view was $3.65 to $3.70.
Abbott shares were up $1.47 at $51.12 in late morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Ransdell Pierson and Lewis Krauskopf; editing by John Wallace, Lisa Von Ahn and Tim Dobbyn)