Bristol-Myers 4Q sales rise, meet expectations

Associated Press Modified: January 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm •  Published: January 27, 2011

Fourth-quarter profit plunged for Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. due to a huge gain a year ago, but higher U.S. sales and tight cost controls enabled the drugmaker to meet Wall Street's earnings expectations.

Bristol's new profit forecast for 2011 was significantly below what analysts anticipated, but the company on Thursday reaffirmed its prior $1.95-per-share forecast for the crucial year 2013, right after three of Bristol's top five drugs get generic competition.

Its shares rose 41 cents to $26.34 in afternoon trading.

Bristol-Myers, which sells blockbuster blood thinner Plavix, said quarterly net income was $483 million, or 28 cents per share. That's down from $8.03 billion, or $4.06 per share, in the 2009 quarter, when the company posted a $7.2 billion gain from selling its interest in infant formula maker Mead Johnson.

Excluding one-time items totaling $324 million, or 19 cents per share, Bristol would have earned 47 cents a share in the latest quarter. That matched the expectations of analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Those items include charges for streamlining global operations, depreciation and shutdown costs, licensing payments and a tax charge.

Revenue totaled $5.11 billion, up 1.5 percent from $5.03 billion a year earlier. Analysts expected $5.05 billion.

U.S. sales rose 5 percent, driven by strong Plavix sales, while net international sales fell 5 percent.

"Bristol's numbers were decent," said Edward Jones analyst Linda Bannister.

The company said fees and discounts under the U.S. health care overhaul reduced earnings per share by 2 cents in the fourth quarter and 10 cents over 2010, and will cut earnings per share by 15 cents in 2011.

Bristol-Myers said it expects 2011 earnings per share of $2.10 to $2.20 excluding one-time items, or a dime less including them. Analysts, who exclude one-time items, are expecting slightly higher earnings per share of $2.23.

"I'm very happy with the progress we made in 2010 strategically and financially, and feel very confident for the future," Chief Executive Lamberto Andreotti told analysts during a conference call. "Between 2011 and 2012, we anticipate up to five regulatory approvals."

Those include new drugs ipilimumab for advanced melanoma, anticlotting drug apixaban, Type 2 diabetes pill dapaglifozin and organ transplant drug belatacept, plus a new version of biologic rheumatoid arthritis drug Orencia that patients could inject themselves just under the skin. Bristol also plans to move four other drugs — one each for cancer and Alzheimer's disease and two for hepatitis C — into late-stage testing this year, Andreotti said.

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