Sales were up 3.8% to $4.341 billion and, excluding charges from both this quarter and the previous year's, net income grew 9.6% to $752 million. Counting those charges, net income improved 14% to $720 million. Abbott's earnings per share hit estimates on the nose at $0.48 ($0.46 including charges).
Abbott also announced some restructuring plans. About 2,000 employees, or 3% of its workforce, will lose their jobs, and 10 facilities will close. It expects to take a $100 million to $125 million charge in its fourth quarter to reflect this, and hopes to gain cost savings from the moves of around $80 million to $100 million a year once the changes are complete. At the same time, it said it will invest more than $450 million in capital over the next few years to boost its manufacturing capabilities.
All eyes are on Abbott's expected blockbuster, D2E7 (not to be confused with adorable Star Wars robot R2D2). The rheumatoid arthritis treatment is a monoclonal antibody drug, a fast-growing segment of pharmaceuticals. D2E7 targets the autoimmune factors in the body that cause the severe joint inflammation and deterioration found with rheumatoid arthritis, deactivating the chemical signals before they have a chance to do harm.
D2E7 is special because it's the first fully human monoclonal antibody. That means it appears virtually indistinguishable from antibodies already present in the body, and therefore limits toxicity even more than other monoclonal antibody drugs. Versus other drugs on the market, D2E7 only needs to be injected once every two weeks, which is a big advantage.
Abbott has recently expanded its testing of D2E7 to include juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease. The company also said it's starting a compassionate-use study, giving rheumatoid arthritis sufferers access to the drug through their doctors. Clinical trials have been solid, and FDA approval is expected by early next year.
The market for monoclonal antibody drugs could grow to $12.1 billion a year by 2010, according to market consultancy group Datamonitor, so Abbott could benefit substantially once D2E7 is approved. With a 2.38% dividend yield and shares off a 52-week high by about 43%, this is one drug company investors should consider.