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Why Abbott Laboratories Is Getting Crushed Today

By Brian Feroldi – Jan 28, 2016 at 4:44PM

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A mixed earnings report and disappointing guidance cause shares to take a step back.

What: Investors in Abbott Laboratories (ABT 1.55%) are having a rough day as shares of the diversified healthcare giant were down by as much as 10% as of 2:45 p.m. EST on much higher-than-normal trading volume after it released its fourth-quarter results.

So what: Sales at Abbott Laboratories came in a $5.2 billion for the quarter, down 3.1% from the year-ago period. Currencies appear to be the source of the decline as they lopped more than 8% off of its top line during the period, causing sales to come up a bit short of the $5.3 billion that many were expecting. The company managed to beat on the bottom line, as earnings per share came in at $0.62, which managed to beat expectations by $0.01.

Performance by business segment during the quarter on a currency-neutral basis looked decent. The company's established pharmaceutical-product division grew by a strong 10.9%, and its nutrition and diagnostics division also grew by mid-single digits. The company's medical-device segment managed to eke out a 0.7% gain. However, all of these gains turned to losses after adjusting for currencies.

The company offered up guidance for 2016 that failed to inspire investors. Management is forecasting that its adjusted 2016 earnings will land between $2.10 to 2.20 per share. That's a bit shy of the $2.26 that the market was looking for; if achieved, it would be flat with the $2.15 that it reported in 2015.

Add it all up, and shares were dumped today.

Now what: While the results were a bit disappointing, shares may be falling so much because Abbott just picked a bad day to report its earnings. The PowerShares Dynamic Pharmaceuticals ETF (PJP 0.49%), an ETF that holds a collection of large pharmaceutical companies, is down by roughly 3% today, as well.

Zooming out and looking at the whole year, it looks like Abbott did just fine. On an operating basis, it grew sales by 9.1%, with an even stronger growth of 17.1% in emerging markets. Those results hint that its long-term strategy to focus on emerging markets is paying off, even if its reported results make it look like the company is standing still.

However, because Abbott's financial statements are so heavily influenced by currency movements, it's tough to know when the company will be able to get back into growth mode. With management predicting that its profitability is going to move sideways in 2016, it's hard for me to see how this stock will keep up with the PJP; so even after today's decline, I'm content to keep away from this stock for now.

Brian Feroldi has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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