The "new" Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) announced fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday. This marked the first time that the company reported results after spinning off AbbVie Inc (NYSE:ABBV), although 2012 results still include the combined financial numbers. Is Abbott now new and improved -- or just new? Let's find out.
What improved Two business categories showed the most improvement: point-of-care diagnostics and nutritionals. Net sales for point-of-care diagnostics jumped 15.7% in 2012 compared to 2011. However, the $348 million in revenue garnered makes up only a small fraction of Abbott's total sales.
Nutritionals net sales grew 7.7% for all of 2012 and 10.2% for the fourth quarter compared to the same periods in the prior year. With nearly $6.5 billion in revenue, the business segment is probably the most important element to the new Abbott's continued success.
Growth in diluted earnings per share for the full year looked good, with a 23.6% gain for 2012 versus 2011. The company as a whole showed some improvement in total sales, but not enough to get anyone excited. Sales were up by 2.6% for the full year and 4.4% for the quarter as compared to 2011.
What didn't improve Quarterly earnings look bad at first glance. Abbott reported diluted earnings per share of $0.66, down by 35% from the fourth quarter of 2011. However, the seemingly negative performance stemmed from one-time events, particularly debt reduction of $1.35 billion and $265 million for separation costs. Excluding these and other special items, Abbott's fourth-quarter earnings were actually up by 5.5%.
The company's vascular business unit continued to be a drag on revenue. Vascular sales fell around 8% for the quarter and full year. The primary culprit was U.S. sales, which dropped by 24.6% in the fourth quarter year-on-year and 20.7% for all of 2012.
Established pharmaceuticals also experienced declines. Sales were down 2.4% for fourth quarter and 4.4% for the year. That represents lower revenue of around $235 million compared to 2011.
A no-Humira world When asked about specifics on Humira in the company's earnings call, Abbott CFO Thomas Freyman side-stepped the question, responding that he now lives "in a no-Humira world." While that is true, Abbott's results did provide some insight into AbbVie's performance.
Humira sales grew more than 23% in the fourth quarter, with full-year sales growth of 16.8%. Those numbers bode well for AbbVie in the near term, considering that the drug accounts for more than half of its total sales.AbbVie's quarterly conference call is scheduled for Wednesday.
On the other hand, the absence of the strong growth driver that Humira has been over the last few years changes the dynamic for the new Abbott. The company's "no-Humira world" means that more pressure will be on improving performance in its nutritionals and established pharmaceuticals divisions.