Amid ongoing trends toward consolidation in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry over the past couple of years, 2006 was a big year for Abbott Laboratories
Last week, Abbott released fourth-quarter results. Though comparing sales and other metrics for 2005 and 2006 is somewhat muddied, both because of its multiple acquisitions and divestitures, and the change in its marketing agreement with Boehringer Ingelheim, Abbott did separate its sales numbers. They showed that comparable sales increased a healthy 15% versus the fourth quarter last year. Revenue growth was led by a 9% gain in its pharmaceutical segment, which accounted for more than half of all sales. After backing out various charges and one-time events, earnings were $0.75 a share for the fourth quarter and $2.53 for the year.
This will be another important year for Abbott, as it digests all its acquisitions. It's also awaiting feedback from U.S. and European authorities on its potential label-expanding application for Humira as a treatment for Crohn's disease. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to decide in the first quarter, and a decision from Europe is expected later in the year. Humira sales were up 46% to more than $2 billion last year, and sales are expected to grow another 35% this year. Partly based on this, the guidance calls for earnings of $2.77 to $2.83 a share for the year.
Shares of Abbott aren't exactly cheap, trading at 19 times 2007 earnings, but they aren't terribly expensive, either. In addition, investors get a 2.2% dividend yield. There's much to like about how Abbott is changing, and while it might not enjoy incredible gains this year, good news from regulators and successful products in its pipeline could lead to better performance ahead.
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