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Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) gets a pass for the first quarter. No reason to sell, but nothing to get excited about, either.
A 1.5% year-over-year increase in adjusted earnings isn't that bad, but it basically came from cost cutting. Revenue decreased 0.2% year over year.
Consumer health-care products continue to need a bandage, with sales down 2.4%. The company is still struggling with issues from the ongoing recalls of over-the-counter products. Johnson & Johnson blamed the decrease on an "impact on production volumes," which I take as a good sign. It's not like its back up to full speed, and consumers aren't switching back from brands sold by Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) , Bayer, and others. Of course, Johnson & Johnson had better hurry up and get back up to full speed; the longer the delay, the harder it will be to woo consumers back.
Sales of medical devices, the company's largest segment, were lower, but that shouldn't have come as much of a shock, since the year-ago quarter included sales of drug eluting stents before Johnson & Johnson decided to abandon the space.
The pharmaceutical segment was the only area where sales were up in the quarter, but it was a tale of two geographies. Stateside sales were down 10.8% as the company deals with generic competition for antibiotic Levaquin and manufacturing issues with cancer drug Doxil, which has led to rationing.
In the rest of the world, pharmaceutical sales were up 16.5%, but that's slightly misleading since it includes the transfer of sales of Remicade from Merck (NYSE: MRK ) after the dispute ended in a settlement.
If you're looking for a bright spot to hang onto until next earnings season, it's J&J's prostate cancer drug, Zytiga, which is quickly approaching blockbuster status, selling $200 million worldwide in the first quarter. With new data showing that it works in patients earlier in their disease progression, it should take sales away from Sanofi's (NYSE: SNY ) Taxotere and potentially Dendreon's (Nasdaq: DNDN ) Provenge, although the latter is hoping to show that successive treatments are better than either treatment individually.
The best reason to own Johnson & Johnson at this point is the solid 3.5% dividend yield. The health-care giant is a few years away from rapid sales increases that will drive the share price higher, but as this quarter showed, it's stable enough to justify owning it for the dividend alone while you wait.