Abbott Profit Declines 19% As Charges Offset Higher Sales

Abbott Laboratories said on Wednesday its first-quarter earnings fell 19% as charges related to acquisitions and cost-cutting offset sharply higher sales of its prescription drugs and medical devices.

Shares fell , but results topped the average Wall Street forecast, making Abbott the fourth largest U.S. drugmaker this month to report earnings above analysts' estimates.

Excluding special items, Abbott earned 55 cents a share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial predicted a profit of 52 cents a share with sales of $5.26 billion.

Net earnings were $697.5 million, or 45 cents a share, down from $865 million, or 56 cents a share, in the year-earlier period.

Abbott's sales jumped almost 16% to $5.3 billion, a tad higher than Wall Street forecasts, helped by new products from acquisitions and favorable foreign exchange factors.

Prescription drug revenue rose almost 17% to $3.37 billion as its injectable Humira treatment for rheumatoid arthritis continued to grow by leaps and bounds, and drugs to raise "good" HDL cholesterol, acquired in a recent merger, continued to help results.

Sales of Humira, which targets the same inflammatory protein as Wyeth's Enbrel and Johnson & Johnson's Remicade, rose 46% to $571 million.

Abbott slightly raised its 2007 earnings forecast, to a range of $2.79 to $2.85 per share, citing higher-than-expected revenue in the first quarter from its TAP joint venture with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.