Humira sales surge in Q4, as Abbott's earnings hit by cost of AbbVie spin-off

Abbott announced Wednesday that fourth-quarter sales of Humira jumped 23.1 percent year-over-year to $2.7 billion, helping pharmaceutical revenue in the three-month period reach $5.1 billion, up 7.4 percent. However, the company reported a 34.9 percent drop in net earnings to $1.1 billion as it recorded $265 million in charges associated with the spin-off of its proprietary drug unit on January 1 into a firm called AbbVie.

"In 2012, we achieved a significant milestone in Abbott's 125-year history with the creation of AbbVie while delivering another year of strong results," said CEO Miles White. Overall sales in the fourth quarter rose 4.4 percent to $10.8 billion, beating analyst estimates of $10.6 billion, and were up 2.6 percent for 2012 at $39.9 billion. Net earnings for the 12-month period jumped 26.1 percent versus 2011 to just under $6 billion.

Wells Fargo analyst Larry Biegelsen noted that quarterly sales of prescription drugs beat his estimate of $4.8 billion, while three-monthly revenue from Humira was about $200 million above his predictions. In other quarterly results, revenue from AndroGel jumped 39.6 percent versus the year-ago period to $373 million, while sales of Niaspan grew 7.4 percent to $277 million. Meanwhile, sales of TriCor and Trilipix plunged 43.9 percent year-over-year to $269 million, hit by generic competition in the US, with Kaletra revenue slipping 13.4 percent to $250 million.

For the full year, pharmaceutical revenue climbed 5.5 percent to $18 billion, boosted by Humira sales of $9.3 billion, up 16.8 percent on 2011. Further, sales of TriCor and Trilipix fell 17.2 percent to $1.4 billion, with revenue from AndroGel surging 30.8 percent to $1.2 billion. In other results, Kaletra posted 12-month sales of $1 billion, down 13.4 percent on the previous year, with Niaspan revenue declining 6.7 percent to $911 million.

AbbVie is expected to report its interpretation of the fourth-quarter results and its 2013 forecast on January 30.

For further analysis, read Spotlight On: On the back of Q4 results, AbbVie and Novartis demonstrate contrasting routes towards growth.

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