U.S. News

Johnson & Johnson Profit Rises, Helped by Overseas Demand


Johnson & Johnson Tuesday said second-quarter profit rose on higher sales of medical devices and prescription drugs, beating Wall Street expectations on especially strong demand in overseas markets.

The diversified health-care company said it earned $3.08 billion, or $1.05 per share, compared with $2.82 billion, or 95 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Analysts on average expected $1 per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

"At first glance, the earnings look pretty strong," said Russell Croft, portfolio manager of Croft-Leominster Value Fund.

Noting that J&J's international sales rose 18%, Croft said: "One of the reasons why we like the stock (is that) almost half of their sales come from outside the U.S."

Quarterly global sales rose 13.2% to $15.13 billion, in line with Wall Street expectations of $15.06 billion, with positive foreign exchange factors contributing 2.4% of the growth.

Global pharmaceutical revenue rose 5.8% to $6.1 billion, fueled by sales of epilepsy drug Topamax, arthritis treatment Remicade and its Risperdal schizophrenia medicine.

Medical device sales rose 5.1% to $5.4 billion, as higher sales of disposable contact lenses, glucose monitoring devices and surgical and wound-care products offset continuing sales declines for the company's Cypher stent that is used to prop open heart arteries cleared of plaque.

Global sales of consumer products jumped almost 49 percent to $3.6 billion, as J&J began selling an array of brands acquired from Pfizer in December, including Listerine mouthwash and the Sudafed allergy pill.

J&J has reliably posted double-digit annual profit growth until recently, helped by product diversification. But it is now forecasting single-digit gains amid generic competition for its Duragesic pain patch and waning demand for Cypher.

On Tuesday, it reaffirmed a forecast this year, excluding special items, of $4.02 to $4.07 per share. That translates into growth of up to 8.2 percent.

"It looks like they're being overly cautious," Jeff Jonas, a portfolio manager at Gamco Medical Opportunities Fund, said, referring to the 2007 forecast.

Jonas noted that Risperdal will lose its U.S. patent protection in coming months, "but that doesn't seem enough to keep the guidance this low."

Meanwhile, the company is girding for generic competition in 2008 and 2009 for Risperdal and Topamax.

The company for generations has relied on acquisitions to bolster earnings growth. Even though J&J earlier this month announced a $10 billion stock repurchase plan -- the biggest in its history -- Wall Street expects it to continue snapping up companies whose products can help ensure earnings gains.