3 Key Takeaways From Johnson & Johnson's Fourth Quarter

Earnings season is back in full force and health care's biggest name stepped up to the plate today to report its most recent quarterly progress. Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE: JNJ  ) been on a roll lately, with this top diversified health-care stock soaring more than 30% over the past year. The company's pharmaceuticals division has emerged as its new largest business, and investors were hopeful today would deliver another welcome surprise.

Fortunately, good news met investors this morning: Johnson & Johnson's net earnings for the fourth quarter roared higher by 37% year over year to $1.23 per share. The company's revenue also jumped, climbing 4.5% over last year's Q4 to more than $18.3 billion.

So, why's Johnson & Johnson's stock down nearly 2% today? Let's take a look at the three things you need to know from the fourth-quarter performance of health care's biggest name.

Why's Wall Street concerned?
Let's take care of the bad news first: Johnson & Johnson's outlook for 2014 is taking down the stock today as the company estimated its full-year earnings will come to between $5.75 and $5.85 per share. Considering analyst projections average around $5.85, Johnson & Johnson will need to hit all the right marks to meet expectations if it wants to impress investors this year.

Is that really reason to worry, however? Johnson & Johnson's full-year 2013 diluted earnings per share amounted to $4.81, so even at the low mark of the company's projected yearly earnings, it'd still represent net-profit growth of nearly 20%. That's no small feat for a company of this size and breadth.

Furthermore, Johnson & Johnson's looking like it will follow in the steps of pharma rivals like Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) and divest underperforming or unnecessary business units. Pfizer's thrived on ridding itself of peripheral businesses -- Pfizer's sale of its infant-nutrition business won it nearly $12 billion in 2012 -- and Johnson & Johnson's sale of its diagnostics business to the Carlyle Group for $4.15 billion last week might just be the first of more deals to come.

Devices take a dip
Diving into Johnson & Johnson's individual business units for the quarter brings up a mixed bag. The company's medical-device division, formerly its largest division by revenue, saw total sales fall by 1% for the fourth quarter. The division gained nearly 4% for the full year, but that was due largely to the synergies brought about by Johnson & Johnson's Synthes acquisition, which fueled gains earlier in the 2013 fiscal year in the company's orthopedics group.

Some of this sluggishness can be overlooked. The company's aforementioned diagnostics group lost more than 12% in sales for the quarter, so that won't be a problem going forward for Johnson & Johnson. Currency issues also slugged Johnson & Johnson's international device sales, although considering the company said today that it's concerned about the devaluation of the yen in 2014, that's a problem that might not see much improvement in the coming year.

No stopping drug sales
Despite Johnson & Johnson's 2014 projections that have left Wall Street disappointed, the company's pharmaceutical division continues to impress on every level.

J&J's star immunology drug Remicade hasn't slowed down one bit, even as it's emerged as one of the best-selling drugs in the industry. Remicade racked up nearly 14% sales growth for the quarter, and considering its rapid advance overseas -- despite currency issues, the drug gained nearly 27% in international sales growth -- don't expect Remicade's importance in Johnson & Johnson's lineup to end any time soon.

Yet it's the rise of Johnson & Johnson's younger drugs that has investors salivating over the future of this firm's pharmaceuticals unit. Cancer therapy Zytiga continues to be among Johnson & Johnson's hottest products, as the drug capped off 2013 with full-year sales of nearly $1.7 billion at growth of more than 76%. Along with strong sales growth seen in other blockbuster or near-blockbuster drugs, such as Simponi and Stelara, Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceutical future looks bright.

No need for investors to worry
Wall Street might be disappointed about Johnson & Johnson's outlook for 2014, but despite this stock's fall today, this is one household name that hasn't let investors down lately. While the company's medical-device group has slowed now that most of the synergies from the Synthes acquisition have added up, Johnson & Johnson's drug sales and smaller consumer and over-the-counter business are on a roll. Keep an eye on whether Johnson & Johnson looks to deal away any more of its underperforming units in the near future to add onto its diagnostics divestment, but for now health care's biggest name hit another home run in the fourth quarter.

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