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Here's How AbbVie Impressed Investors With Its Q4 Update

By Keith Speights - Updated Feb 7, 2020 at 5:27PM

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The big drugmaker didn't just beat Wall Street estimates in Q4. It provided better-than-expected 2020 guidance, too.

AbbVie (ABBV 0.53%) hasn't been delivering the kind of stock performance that investors like. But the drugmaker continues to beat expectations with its financial results. In November, the company reported a surprisingly solid performance with its third-quarter results. And now AbbVie has done it again.

The company announced its 2019 fourth-quarter and full-year results before the market opened on Friday. AbbVie's shares jumped 5% in early trading, hinting at just how positively those results were received by investors. Here are the highlights from big pharma company's Q4 update.

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By the numbers

AbbVie reported fourth-quarter revenue of $8.7 billion, a solid 5% year-over-year increase. This result also narrowly beat the consensus Wall Street revenue estimate of $8.69 billion. 

The company's bottom-line improvement was even better. AbbVie announced Q4 earnings of $2.8 billion, or $1.88 per share, based on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). It posted a GAAP loss of $1.83 billion, or $1.23 per share, in the prior-year period.

AbbVie's adjusted earnings per share (EPS) jumped 16% year over year to $2.21 in the fourth quarter. This result topped the average analysts' estimate of Q4 adjusted earnings per share of $2.19.

Behind the numbers

Anytime AbbVie provides a quarterly update, what happened with Humira is usually the biggest story. For Humira, though, there are really two stories. In the U.S., sales of Humira jumped 9.8% year over year to $3.97 billion. However, international sales for the immunology drug fell by 27.3% to $948 million as Humira battles biosimilar rivals. Overall, sales for Humira were basically flat year over year at $4.92 billion.

Imbruvica is becoming an even bigger factor in AbbVie's performance. Sales for the cancer drug soared 28.9% year over year in Q4 to $1.3 billion. Another cancer drug in AbbVie's lineup, Venclexta, appears to be on the way to becoming a blockbuster, with Q4 sales of $251 million.

AbbVie's new immunology drugs Rinvoq and Skyrizi also performed well. Sales for Rinvoq totaled $33 million in the drug's first full quarter on the market. Skyrizi sales more than doubled quarter over quarter to $216 million.

However, there were some problem areas. Sales for AbbVie's hepatitis C virus (HCV) franchise declined 26.7% year over year to $632 million. Combined sales for its other key products, including Creon, Lupron, and Synagis, slipped 3.8% year over year to $1.29 billion.

Looking ahead

AbbVie projects full-year 2020 GAAP diluted earnings per share will be between $7.66 and $7.76. The company expects adjusted EPS will be between $9.61 and $9.71, an 8.1% year-over-year increase at the midpoint of the range. This guidance was better than the average analysts' full-year 2020 adjusted EPS estimate of $9.48.

This positive outlook is no doubt fueled in large part by the success of AbbVie's new drugs. CEO Richard Gonzalez said, "The launches of Skyrizi and Rinvoq are going extremely well, and we are entering 2020 with substantial momentum."

The most important thing for investors to watch for with AbbVie is the anticipated closing of its acquisition of Allergan later in the first quarter of 2020. AbbVie already ranks as one of the most attractive dividend stocks on the market. The company thinks that its purchase of Allergan will help it deliver solid growth in the future as well.

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