Johnson & Johnson Suffers Declining Sales and Profits, but Is a Cure Coming?

The healthcare conglomerate is still reeling from the strong dollar but has a solid fundamental business.

Dan Caplinger
Dan Caplinger
Oct 13, 2015 at 10:23AM
Health Care

The strong dollar has been the bane of many multinational corporations recently, and healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) is just the latest casualty among those that have seen declines in revenue and net income as a result of foreign currency impacts on their international businesses. Coming into Tuesday morning's third-quarter financial report, J&J investors were prepared for further drops in the company's key metrics, and in that light, the company's results were mixed. Nevertheless, long-term investors can still see the same fundamental strength in J&J's core businesses, and that should instill confidence even during tough periods like this. Let's take a closer look at how Johnson & Johnson fared during the quarter and whether it can bounce back and start growing its top and bottom lines soon.

Another round of currency hits
This is hardly the first time Johnson & Johnson has struggled as a result of the dollar, but it showed up in the company's most important metrics. Revenue fell 7.4% to $17.1 billion, which was almost two percentage points worse than the $17.45 billion that most investors were expecting. Net income declines were even uglier, dropping almost 30% to $3.36 billion, but those numbers reflected substantial charges that amounted to about $800 million. After making allowances for those charges, adjusted earnings of $1.49 per share were $0.04 better than the consensus forecast among investors, even though it still represented a 7.5% drop in earnings per share for J&J.

In particular, Johnson & Johnson called out the dollar's strength as hitting sales by more than eight percentage points overall, with its international business seeing a nearly 16-percentage point impact from foreign currency weakness. J&J also noted that when you take out merger and acquisition-related activity and hepatitis C results, worldwide sales climbed 5.6%.

Looking at J&J's three main segments, declines in dollar-denominated sales were roughly equal, but operational results were much different. The consumer segment saw a 3.1% rise in currency-neutral sales, with particular strength from the U.S. market. The pharma segment, on the other hand, took a 0.3% hit to currency-neutral revenue on a 4.5% drop in domestic sales. The medical devices segment split the difference, with gains of just under 1% on an operating basis. As we saw last quarter, the international business did better operationally than the domestic business overall.

Several products helped drive J&J's results. In the consumer segment, J&J pointed to over-the-counter blockbuster Tylenol as well as skin care and feminine protection products. The pharma business gained from new products like diabetes treatment Invokana and blood-cancer treatment Imbruvica, even as lower sales of Olysio held back gains. J&J called out Acuvue contact lenses as contributing to medical-device sales.

Can J&J buy its way back to success?
CEO Alex Gorsky is looking to bolster Johnson & Johnson's innovative spirit to find better results in the future. "Consistent with the plans we've laid out for the year," Gorsky said, "we're focusing our portfolio and are advancing our innovation agenda to expand our leadership position in key categories while seeking new opportunities for growth."

Johnson & Johnson made a minor positive change to its guidance for the full year. J&J set its 2015 earnings guidance at $6.15 to $6.20 per share, which was the upper half of its previous range.

Yet the clearest indication of J&J's strategy going forward came in a separate announcement, in which the company said it would authorize a stock buyback of up to $10 billion. With major acquisitions and divestitures transforming the healthcare conglomerate's exposure to the industry, J&J wants to return some capital to shareholders, with Gorsky saying that the company "believes that the company's shares are an attractive investment opportunity."

Investors seemed to react more to Johnson & Johnson's current numbers, though, sending the stock down as much as 2% in pre-market trading after the announcement before opening the regular session down about 1%. Nevertheless, the fact that so much of J&J's trouble is coming from the dollar suggests that at some point when currency headwinds finally dissipate, the healthcare giant should be in good position to keep using its impressive stable of consumer, pharmaceutical, and medical device products to generate better sales growth. That could be the cure that investors have waited to see.