Abbott Laboratories fourth quarter performance beats predictions

By Juliette Rocheleau
Medill Reports

Shares of Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT), an Illinois-based broad range healthcare company, rose 3 percent after the company reported adjusted earnings that slightly exceeded analysts’ expectations in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31.

On a GAAP basis, Abbott reported a net loss of $828 million, or 48 cents per share, compared with the year-earlier quarter’s profit of $798 million, or 53 cents per share, largely due to a $1.46 billion charge occasioned by the U.S. tax reform passed at the end of 2017.

In adjusted figures, the company reported diluted earnings per share of 74 cents for the fourth quarter. Analysts’ estimate compiled by Yahoo Finance was 73 cents per share. Adjusted diluted earnings per share from continuing operations were $2.50, up from $2.20.

Revenue soared 42 percent to $7.59 billion from $5.33 billion, supported by the acquisition of medical device company St. Jude Medical in early 2017.

“Every one of Abbott’s business lines beat or matched the consensus sales estimates for the quarter, so we feel it was an impressive performance all the way around,” Edward Jones analyst John Boylan wrote in a note to investors.

For the full year 2017 Abbott reported a 31.3 percent increase in sales to $27.39 billion from $20.85 billion, but the bottom line fell 65.9 percent to $477 million, or 27 cents per diluted share, from $1.40 billion, or 94 cents per share, according to GAAP.

The company reported a 57.8 percent increase in profit from continuing operations to $2.23 billion in 2017 from $1.41 billion in 2016. It predicted adjusted diluted earnings per share from continuing operations for the full year 2018 of $2.80 to 2.90.

In November Abbott released a new diabetes care product, FreeStyle Libre, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved for coverage under Medicare and Medicaid policies in early 2018. The device has been available to consumers in Europe since 2014, and garners an additional 50,000 customers per quarter, according to Abbott CEO Miles White, himself a diabetic.

“I wear the product. I live the product. I know the product. And I think this product has a long track road ahead of it,” said White in a conference call.

In New York Stock Exchange trading, Abbott’s shares closed at $61.72, up $2.49.

Abbott Laboratories office. (Raysonho/Creative Commons)