Abbott Laboratories (ABT) swung to a profit in the fourth quarter from a loss last year, helped by a decline in tax expense. The results exceeded analysts’ expectations. Despite guiding 2019 earnings guidance within the consensus range, the company issued first-quarter adjusted profit outlook slightly below the Street.
Net income for the quarter was $654 million or $0.37 per share compared to a loss of $828 million or $0.48 per share in the previous year quarter. Adjusted earnings from continuing operations grew 9.5% to $0.81 per share.
Worldwide sales of $7.77 billion increased 2.3% on a reported basis and 6.4% on an organic basis. The results were benefited by the higher sales from Medical Devices and Diagnostics businesses.
Looking ahead into the full year 2019, the company expects organic sales growth of 6.5% to 7.5%, which excludes the impact of foreign exchange, and earnings from continuing operations in the range of $1.80 to $1.90 per share. Adjusted earnings from continuing operations are anticipated to be in the range of $3.15 to $3.25 for the full year 2019.
For the first quarter, Abbott predicts earnings from continuing operations in the range of $0.25 to $0.27 per share and adjusted earnings to be $0.60 to $0.62 per share range.
During 2018, Abbott returned $2 billion to shareholders in the form of dividends. On December 14, 2018, Abbott’s board of directors announced a 14.3% increase in its quarterly common dividend to $0.32 per share from $0.28 per share. The dividend was payable February 15, 2019, to shareholders of record on January 15, 2019.
For the fourth quarter, sales from Nutrition declined by 0.4% year-over-year due to a drop in adult nutrition sales. Diagnostics sales increased 2.9% helped by the strong adoption of its diagnostic instruments Alinity as well as growth in infectious disease testing. Established Pharmaceuticals sales decreased 4.8% due to the unfavorable effect of foreign exchange as well as a decline in sales in emerging markets.
Sales from Medical Devices grew 6.7% year-over-year. In Electrophysiology, the 16.7% growth was led by strong performance in cardiac mapping and ablation catheters. The 12.4% growth in Structural Heart was driven by several product areas across Abbott’s broad portfolio. In Diabetes Care, sales jumped 28.3%, led by rapid market uptake of FreeStyle Libre, which removes the need for routine fingersticks for people with diabetes.
Shares of Abbott ended Tuesday’s regular session up 0.10% at $71.49 on the NYSE. Following the earnings announcement, the stock inched down over 2% in the premarket session.
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