NORTH CHICAGO (dpa-AFX) - Healthcare products maker Abbott Laboratories (ABT) on Wednesday reported a 44 percent surge in profit for the first quarter, helped by higher sales of its drugs and nutritional products. Both revenues and ongoing earnings per share topped analysts' expectations.
Buoyed by the results, Abbott raised its earnings outlook for 2012. The company also said it remains on track to complete its split into two healthcare companies by the end of the year.
Abbott announced last October its intention to separate its diversified medical products and research-based pharmaceuticals functions as two distinct publicly traded companies.
The Abbott Park, Illinois-based drug maker's total U.S. sales during the quarter rose 5.8 percent from last year to $3.72 billion, while international sales rose 3.8 percent to $5.74 billion.
Sales from emerging markets increased more than 10 percent in the quarter, excluding the negative impact of foreign exchange, with strong double-digit growth in the key emerging markets.
Worldwide Nutritionals sales increased 10.4 percent in the quarter, excluding an unfavorable effect of foreign exchange.
Global sales of Core Laboratory Diagnostics rose 6.4 percent from last year, excluding an unfavorable effect of foreign exchange.
Worldwide vascular sales grew nearly 4 percent in the quarter, excluding certain royalty and supply arrangement revenues, with strong growth of the company's Xience drug-eluting stent.
Sales of Abbott's blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira increased 22.7 percent in the U.S. and 14.2 percent in the international market.
The latest quarter's results include an adjusted gross margin ratio of 61.1 percent, representing an increase of 260 basis points over 2011. The increase reflects improved efficiencies across several operating divisions and favorable product mix.
Abbott's net earnings for the first quarter were $1.24 billion or $0.78 per share, up from $864 million or $0.55 per share in the prior-year quarter.
Ongoing earnings, which exclude special items, increased to $1.65 billion or $1.03 per share from $1.42 billion or $0.91 per share in the year-ago quarter.
On average, 18 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the company to earn $1.00 per share for the quarter. Analysts' estimates typically exclude one-time items.
Net sales for the quarter rose 4.6 percent to $9.46 billion from $9.04 billion in the year-ago period and topped analysts' consensus estimate of $9.36 billion.
Looking ahead to fiscal 2012, Abbott raised its outlook for ongoing earnings to a range of $5.00 to $5.10 per share from the prior range of $4.95 to $5.05 per share. Analysts currently expect earnings of $5.01 per share for the year.
Including special items, the company forecasts reported earnings for the year of $4.48 to $4.58 per share.
ABT closed Tuesday's trading at $60.43. In Wednesday's pre-market, the stock is adding $0.77 or 1.27 percent to $61.20.
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