The Securities and Exchange Commission's investigation into the company centered on its accounting practices and punched-up sales numbers over the last several years. At issue is revenue generated through wholesale sales incentives at a time when Bristol-Myers was struggling to meet sales and earnings targets. The faulty revenue recognition added $2.5 billion to its top line for 1999, 2000, and 2001, and resulted in large inventory buildups.
The company also restated earnings for the three years in question, revising them down by $900 million. The restatement helped fiscal 2002's first six months, though, adding sales of $653 million and earnings of $200 million.
For 2002, then, it earned $1.86 billion, or $0.96 a share, excluding items. That's down from $1.09 a share ($2.15 billion) on the same basis from 2001. Including items for both years, it netted $4.94 billion in 2001 and $1.89 billion in 2001. Sales for 2002 reached $18.1 billion, marginally ahead of the year before.
Bristol-Myers may have done its best to clear up accounting questions, but outstanding issues still surround the company -- namely its upcoming patent expirations. Sales have been hurt over the last few years as patents have expired on crucial drugs such as BuSpar, Taxol, and Glucophage. A new batch of depression, diabetes, and cancer drugs will face U.S. or European patent expiration over the next few years, bringing new competition and potentially hurting sales and earnings again.
With shares off more than 50% over the past year, investors willing to bet on Bristol-Myers can earn a nearly 5% dividend yield. However, the risks facing the company are significant and should be carefully considered.