Abbott Labs' (NYSE: ABT) 2010 adjusted earnings grew 12%. Next year's guidance has adjusted earnings growing only 9% and 11%. Oh, the horrors.

At least that's what you'd think from Abbott's decline yesterday after the company released fourth-quarter results and presented its guidance for the year ahead.

Analysts seem to have been expecting a little more, but is meeting last year's growth really necessary? Abbott isn't a biotech or a rare-earth metal company; a 9% to 11% growth looks pretty solid for a company trading at a P/E of 11 and a dividend to boot.

I think the problem stems from where Abbott is getting that growth. The company announced that it was cutting 1,900 jobs or about 2% of its workforce to save about $200 million annually. Investors would rather see growth coming from revenue increases than expense decreases, but Abbott's pipeline is a little weak. Earlier this month it pulled the U.S. and EU marketing applications for its next-generation psoriasis drug, briakinumab, after regulators indicated that they would need more data to approve the drug.

Abbott is getting decent growth from its current offering, especially Humira that was up 13% year over year in the fourth quarter. But increases in its top selling drug just worry investors more. Humira sales make up nearly a fifth of total revenue and yet there are plenty of companies gunning for it. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) already has Stelara for psoriasis and Simponi for rheumatoid arthritis approved, and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), Rigel Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: RIGL) and Incyte (Nasdaq: INCY) are in a three-way race to develop an oral rheumatoid arthritis drug. The latter two are backed by big pharma -- AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) and Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) respectively -- so Abbott could have its work cut out for it.

Abbott's a solid company with solid dividend and growth potential in the near term. But investors need to be careful extrapolating that growth out. It might be harder for Abbott to keep growing at this pace in 2012 and beyond.

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Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Johnson & Johnson is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Johnson & Johnson. The Fool owns shares of Johnson & Johnson. Motley Fool Alpha owns shares of Abbott Laboratories and Johnson & Johnson. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.