Abbott Laboratories (ABT -1.61%) entered 2020 as a strong and growing business. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the company became even stronger, with much faster growth. 

The healthcare giant announced its first-quarter results before the market opened on Tuesday. Here are the highlights from that update.

Two scientist working in a laboratory.

Image source: Getty Images.

By the numbers

For the quarter, Abbott Labs reported revenue of $10.5 billion, a 35% year-over-year jump. However, this result fell a little short of the analysts' average estimate of $10.69 billion. The company's net income was $1.8 billion, or $1.00 per share, based on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). In the prior-year period, Abbott posted GAAP earnings of $564 million, or $0.31 per share.

Abbott's non-GAAP bottom line also improved significantly. The company recorded adjusted net income of $1.32 per share in the first quarter. This more than doubled the adjusted earnings of $0.65 per share it booked in the prior-year period. It also beat the $1.27 per share consensus estimate among analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.

Behind the numbers

The biggest driver of Abbott's strong Q1 growth by far was its diagnostics segment. Sales skyrocketed by 119.8% year over year to more than $4 billion. COVID-19 testing-related sales totaled $2.2 billion.

Abbott's medical device segment generated sales of $3.3 billion, up 13.1% year over year. The continued recovery from the pandemic was the primary growth driver here. The diabetes care segment was especially important for Abbott. Sales of its FreeStyle Libre continuous glucose monitoring system and Libre Sense glucose sport biosensor totaled $829 million.

The company's nutrition segment also turned in a solid Q1 performance. Sales increased by 6.9% to a little over $2 billion. Pediatric nutrition product year-over-year sales comparisons were challenging because the first quarter of 2020 featured a significant surge in purchases as consumers stocked up in anticipation of lockdowns related to COVID-19. However, higher sales of adult nutrition products in the recently ended quarter more than compensated for the comparatively lower pediatric sales.

Established pharmaceuticals sales rose 2.5% to nearly $1.1 billion. On an organic basis (which excludes the impact of shifting foreign currency exchange rates), the segment's sales grew 6.2% year over year. Abbott noted especially strong growth in China, India, and Brazil.

Looking ahead

After Abbott Labs delivered those mixed Q1 results, the healthcare stock fell by more than 4% in early trading on Tuesday. However, the company's future continues to look bright.

Abbott expects full-year 2021 GAAP earnings per share of at least $3.74 with non-GAAP earnings per share of at least $5. This guidance reflects year-over-year growth of more than 35% and was roughly in line with Wall Street estimates.

The company has high hopes for sales of its BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Self Test, which received emergency use authorization from the FDA earlier this month. This test can be used at home by individuals with or without COVID-19 symptoms, and does not require a prescription to purchase.

Income investors can also look forward to Abbott's 389th consecutive quarterly dividend, which is to be distributed on May 17. The company ranks as a Dividend Aristocrat, with 49 straight years of payout increases.

With its solid growth prospects and strong dividend, Abbott still appears to be a stock that can make investors richer in the coming months.