Who says giant companies can't be nimble?

Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE:JNJ) revenue slipped nearly 5% year over year in the fourth quarter. But the company was able to increase earnings per share (excluding special items) by almost 7%, thanks to cost cuts and share buybacks.

The decreased revenue mostly stemmed from the currency changes that accompanied a strengthening dollar. With nearly half of its revenue coming from abroad, the 4% hit from currency changes hurt J&J in a way no Band-Aid could soothe.

Revenue from pharmaceuticals was the worst off -- down 11% year over year. Sales of anti-inflammatory Remicade -- normally a substantial grower capable of making up for declining sales of drugs facing new generic competition -- fell 2.4%, because sales by international marketing partner Schering-Plough (NYSE:SGP) were down 15%. Even stateside sales were up just 2% in the fourth quarter, compared to a 11% increase over the past year. We'll have to wait for Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) and Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT) to release earnings in the next few days to see whether their competing anti-inflammatory drugs are cutting into Remicade's growth, or whether Americans are just cutting back on high-priced biologics.

Sales of medical devices and diagnostics also slipped, but by a much more reasonable 2% year over year. Drug-eluting stent sales kept getting hammered by new offerings from Abbott, Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX), and Medtronic (NYSE:MDT), with U.S. sales falling a whopping 63%. Fortunately, they're now an even smaller portion of Johnson & Johnson's diversified revenue stream than before.

Looking ahead, the health-care giant doesn't look quite so nimble. Johnson & Johnson guided for earnings per share of $4.45 to $4.55 this year, compared to adjusted earnings of $4.55 last year. That does include dilution for the recently announced acquisition of Mentor (NYSE:MNT), but that will only cost Johnson & Johnson a few pennies per share this year. The bigger hit will be a $0.15-per-share reduction in earnings because of currency changes -- assuming the dollar stays where it is.

While I'm sure investors aren't happy about owning a company with potentially flat earnings, the good news is that the stock's price already factors in precious little growth. Any potential upside should be a boon for investors -- and they'll get a nice 3.2% dividend check while they wait for the boom times to return.

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Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool's disclosure policy may be worth less if printed out in a foreign language.