Abbott's quarterly results top estimates

Maker of drugs and medical devices reports revenue surge, boosted by overseas sales. Humira sales projected to reach $4 billion in 2008, says CEO.

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By Aaron Smith, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Abbott Laboratories, a maker of drugs and medical devices, reported on Wednesday a jump in sales and earnings that beat Wall Street's estimates.

Abbott said its fourth-quarter earnings per share, excluding charges, rose to 93 cents. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call had expected earnings per share of 92 cents. Diluted EPS, with charges, were 77 cents.

The Chicago-area company said quarterly sales climbed 16 percent to $7.2 billion, exceeding the $7 billion consensus estimate of analysts.

For the full year 2007, Abbott reported a 15 increase in sales to $25.9 billion. Net earnings more than doubled to $3.6 billion, or earnings per share of $2.31, for 2007. Excluding charges, EPS for the full year was $2.84.

Abbott (ABT, Fortune 500) shares fell 3 percent in early trade. Many other Big Pharma stocks slipped in morning trading, as the Dow and the Nasdaq slipped roughly 2 percent.

Abbott said the weak U.S. dollar helped to boost international sales. Sales in overseas markets surged 22 percent in the fourth quarter, compared to an increase of 11 percent in the U.S. market, Abbott said.

The company also credited its sales jump to fast-growing drugs like Humira, a treatment for five different inflammatory diseases including psoriasis that saw sales grow 50% in 2007, as well as to sales of HIV treatment Kaletra and the cholesterol-controlling TriCor. Products related to diabetes and diagnostics also did well, the company said.

Chief executive Miles White said in a conference call that Humira sales exceeded $3 billion in 2007, and that he expects the drug to reach $4 billion in 2008. On Jan. 18, the FDA approved the drug for psoriasis, and that alone could be worth $500 million in annual sales, according to Phillip Nalbone, analyst for RBC Capital Markets.

Going forward, Abbott is awaiting FDA decisions on two products: its drug-coated Xience stent for heart failure patients, and the cholesterol-controlling drug Simcor.

For the full-year 2008, Abbott provide EPS guidance of $3.20 to $3.25.

Abbott is the fourth-largest drugmaker in terms of annual sales, behind Johnson & Johnson (JNJ, Fortune 500), Pfizer (PFE, Fortune 500) and Merck (MRK, Fortune 500). To top of page

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