Abbott's Not Ailing

Remember when double-digit growth was enough to send a stock price soaring? Not anymore, folks. Yesterday, Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT  ) reported almost 14% year-over-year sales growth in the first quarter and a 33% increase in earnings per share versus the year-ago quarter -- and its stock didn't move at all.

Year-over-year growth of 54% in sales of anti-inflammatory Humira lead the sales growth charge. That's pretty impressive, especially since Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) reported such strong sales of its competing anti-inflammatory Remicade just a day earlier. There's clearly growth still left in the anti-TNF alpha market, which is a good sign considering that Abbott picked up approvals to market Humira for plaque psoriasis and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis during the quarter.

Abbott also got its cholesterol drug Simcor approved during the first quarter. Simcor is a combination of the active ingredient in Merck's (NYSE: MRK  ) Zocor, which lowers bad LDL cholesterol, and Abbott's own Niaspan, which raises good HDL cholesterol. Abbott is looking for sales of $100 million this year, and I'd guess that Merck's and Schering-Plough's (NYSE: SGP  ) poor showing at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) meeting should help it reach that goal. The sales of Simcor aren't expected to come just from patients trading in two pills for one; Abbott is looking for a double-digit percentage year-over-year increase in sales of Niaspan for the rest of the year.

The drug- and medical device-maker is still expecting FDA approval for its drug-eluting stent, Xience V, in the next few months. The company is hoping to have 25%-30% of the U.S. stent market cornered within the first year after its launch. Even though I think Abbott's data is clearly the strongest and that the company will win out in the long run, that goal might be a tad optimistic. The entrenched stent makers, Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX  ) , aren't just going to roll over and die when Abbott hits the market, not to mention it will also have to compete against U.S. newcomer Medtronic (NYSE: MDT  ) , which has competed well overseas.

When will Abbott's stock break out of the funk it's been in over the last year? I have no idea, but at least investors will get to enjoy their higher 2.8% dividend yield -- thanks to the increased dividend in February -- while they wait.


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