Abbott Labs (ABT) reported first quarter earnings of $1.03 per share, three cents above the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.00 and 13.2% above the year-earlier earnings. Including one-time items, first quarter earnings increased 41.8% to 78 cents per share. Higher revenues led to the improvement.
First quarter revenues increased 4.6% to $9.5 billion, just above the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $9.3 billion. Foreign exchange fluctuations negatively impacted sales by 1.3%.
The Quarter in Detail
Several of the business categories performed well during the quarter. Proprietary Pharmaceutical sales were $4.1 billion, up 7.1%. Humira was a major contributor with sales coming in at $1.9 billion, up 17.4%. Humira recorded sales growth in both the US (22.7%) and international markets (14.2%) during the quarter.
Abbott Labs is looking to get Humira approved for additional indications which would help drive growth further. The company recently gained EU approval for Humira for ulcerative colitis. Abbott Labs is currently evaluating Humira’s safety and efficacy in adult patients with moderate to severe hidradenitis suppurativa (HS).
Lupron, Androgel, Creon and Synthroid also contributed to Proprietary Pharmaceutical sales growth.
The Nutritionals business grew 10.1% to $1.6 billion. Nutrition sales in the US increased 11% to $707 million. The company said that it continued to recover the share it had lost in the US due to the late 2010 Similac recall. Outside the US, Nutrition sales experienced single-digit growth with sales increasing 9.3% to $859 million. Strong performance of pediatric nutritionals in emerging markets helped drive international nutrition sales.
Other areas that witnessed growth include the Core Laboratory Diagnostics, Molecular Diagnostics, Medical Optics and Point of Care Diagnostics businesses.
Established Pharmaceuticals sales, however, continued to decline with sales coming in at $1.3 billion, down 1.6%.
2012 Outlook Raised
Based on first quarter results, Abbott Labs increased its earnings guidance for 2012. The company now expects 2012 earnings in the range of $5.00 to $5.10, up from the earlier guidance of $4.95 to $5.05 per share. The Zacks Consensus Estimate currently stands at $5.02 per share, towards the lower end of the new guidance range.
Abbott Labs provided an update on its intention to split into two separate publicly traded companies: the company said that it expects to complete the separation by year end. While one company will deal in diversified medical products, the other (AbbVie) will focus on research-based pharmaceuticals.
The company also declared a quarterly dividend of 51 cents per share.
Pipeline Update
Abbott Labs also provided an update on its pipeline. The company currently has 20 candidates in phase II/phase III development. The acquisition of Facet Biotech has helped strengthen Abbott Labs' early- and mid-stage oncology portfolio.
Abbott Labs is also working on strengthening its neuroscience portfolio and has several candidates in different stages of development for the treatment of diseases like schizophrenia, pain, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. Abbott Labs, along with partner Biogen (BIIB), is evaluating daclizumab in a phase III study for the treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).
Abbott Labs is also working on an intestinal gel for advanced Parkinson's disease – positive phase III results were reported on this candidate recently and Abbott Labs expects to file for US approval later this year.
Another promising pipeline candidate is bardoxolone, which is in phase III studies for chronic kidney disease.
We currently have a Neutral recommendation on Abbott Labs, which carries a Zacks #3 Rank (short-term Hold rating). Shares were up 1.27% in pre-market trading.


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