Abbott Laboratories (ABT 1.77%) released its fourth-quarter report Wednesday morning, beating expectations for revenue and meeting its guidance for earnings per share. Shares were up by about 3% on the news.
For the quarter, revenue rose by 7.1% year over year to $8.31 billion compared to analysts' consensus estimate of $8.26 billion, and was up 8.5% after excluding foreign currency effects and a discontinued business. Adjusted earnings per share were up 17.3% to $0.95, precisely hitting the midpoint of the guidance range management provided three months ago.
Abbott's largest segment, medical devices, provided its strongest sales gain -- 11.3%, excluding foreign currency impacts. Sales of the company's continuous glucose monitoring system, FreeStyle Libre, increased 62%, and sales of the MitraClip heart valve implant product grew 29%.
Abbott's other three segments delivered solid growth as well, led by its branded generic drug business targeted at emerging markets, which had organic growth of 10%. The diagnostics unit's sales grew by 6.4%, and the nutrition segment had organic sales growth of 5.8%.
Management's newly released guidance for 2020 forecasts sales growth of between 7% and 8%, excluding currency impacts, which is above the 6.4% growth that analysts have been modeling. The company expects adjusted EPS for the year to fall in the $3.55 to $3.65 range, which would be growth of 11% at the midpoint. That's consistent with analysts' consensus estimate.
Abbott's well-managed, diversified healthcare business is a model of consistency, hitting its guidance quarter after quarter, and the market is applauding that quality today, to the benefit of shareholders in this Dividend Aristocrat.