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Consumer health care might be the smallest of Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE: JNJ ) three divisions, but a 15% drop in revenue still hurts. A lot.
The sharp fall was, of course, due to the seemingly never-ending recalls. The recalls aren't necessarily new issues; the company is going through every product, checking to make sure everything is perfect. It's a good move in the long run -- something it should have been doing all along -- but it's painful right now.
The recalls may not even be done yet. According to CEO William Weldon, most of it is behind the company, but there could be "a little bit" more. It's all relative, I guess.
The pharmaceutical division wasn't exactly firing on all cylinders either, registering a 4.7% fall in fourth-quarter sales. A 10% drop in U.S. sales of its anti-inflammatory Remicade, the company's top-selling drug, was a major component. Some of the drop could be from its new drugs -- Stelara for psoriasis and Simponi for rheumatoid arthritis -- cannibalizing Remicade sales, but U.S. sales of Abbott Labs' (NYSE: ABT ) Humira, which treats the same indications, were up 13% in the fourth quarter, so it's not like everyone is having trouble.
Combine the consumer-division woes with the pharmaceutical problems, and a paltry 0.2% increase for the medical devices and diagnostics business, and the fourth-quarter revenue fell by 5.5%. The horrible quarter dragged down the 2010 year-over-year revenue change into the red as well -- the second year in a row that's happened.
Will Johnson & Johnson recover? Absolutely -- it's Johnson & Johnson, after all. When? It's hard to say.
If your timeframe is long enough, buying now might be OK. The beleaguered stock price has Johnson & Johnson's dividend yield at 3.5%. That's not bad, but if you're going to wait for growth to come back, you might as well go for a higher dividend from Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) or Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY ) -- at least the timing of their recoveries from patent expirations are well established.