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A Tale of Two Lillys

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Dickens could have been talking about Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY  ) which has a tale of two cities all on its own.

The company's earnings guidance today tells the whole story. Next year looks somewhere between decent and great. Eli Lilly is guiding for earnings of $4.65 to $4.85 per share next year, which would be about 20% above the expectation for this year's earnings.

Farther in the future, things look much bleaker. Between 2011 and 2014, Eli Lilly will lose quite a few blockbusters including schizophrenia drug Zyprexa, antidepressant Cymbalta, and cancer drug Gemzar. Through cost cutting measures, the company hopes to keep net income above $3 billion -- a substantial drop from the $5 billion or so at the midpoint of next year's guidance. Operating cash flow looks a little better with expectations of it being above $4 billion. Eli Lilly only paid out $2.1 billion in dividends over the last four quarters, so that leaves plenty of room to increase the dividend and still have money left to acquire drugs.

Don't expect Eli Lilly to make a major acquisition like Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) and Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) did this year, though. President and CEO John Lechleiter says Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) and Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT  ) can have their diversity; at Eli Lilly it's all drugs, all the time.

While the clinical pipeline is packed full of drugs -- 60 in all -- most are in phase 1 trials, years away from bringing in a profit. Eli Lilly may be able to get back to "the best of times" again, but not until it can work those drugs through the clinic.

The patent losses are mostly factored into the stock price, but without any catalyst for growth in the medium-term future, investors will need to be satisfied with the substantial dividend to carry them through the tough times ahead.

Johnson & Johnson is an Income Investor recommendation. To see how dividend-paying stocks can offer both secure income and the opportunity for growth, take a free look at this newsletter with a 30-day free trial. 

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Pfizer is a recommendation of the Inside Value newsletter. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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