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Sure, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) missed analysts' second-quarter sales expectations and lowered its 2012 earnings guidance, but the earnings release was far from a train wreck.
The main culprit of the reduced earnings was changes in currency. As the dollar gets stronger, sales outside the U.S. don't look as hot when the company converts them to U.S. dollars for its earnings report.
What does that have to do with Johnson & Johnson's core business? Absolutely nothing. The currency fluctuations -- in both directions -- are mostly out of the big pharma's hands. Johnson & Johnson could buy hedges, but do you really want the drug company you're invested in making hedges just to smooth out earnings? It's not like banks do a good job with their hedges.
Johnson & Johnson's core business isn't much different from what it was in the first quarter. Generic competition continues to affect sales of U.S. prescription drugs; sales were down 4.5% year over year. Rest-of-world sales -- up 15.5% before accounting for the aforementioned currency changes -- kept drug-sales growth in positive territory, but much of that was because it now books sales of Remicade, formerly sold by partner Merck (NYSE: MRK ) .
Sales of medical devices were up 3.4% year over year at constant currency -- nothing to get too excited about.
And the dreaded consumer division managed to keep sales flat at constant currency. The year-over-year comparisons aren't looking as bad, with the recalls mostly finished, but it's nowhere near turning around just yet. Getting over-the-counter meds back on the shelves will be the easy part. Wooing back customers from Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) , Merck, Teva Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: TEVA ) , Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) , and other OTC drugmakers won't be easy, especially considering how long the drugs have been off the shelf.
I continue to think Johnson & Johnson's best quality as an investment is its dividend. The company will turn things around; it's Johnson & Johnson, for heaven's sake. But it might be a while -- should we measure the time in reversals of the dollar strength? -- but the dividend will keep coming and offer a bit of a floor to the price even if earnings aren't increasing all that much.
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