Abbott Profit Rises, Boosted by Prescriptions

Abbott Laboratories said first-quarter earnings increased 34 percent on higher sales of its prescription drugs and medical devices and favorable foreign exchange factors.

Net profit rose $938 million, or 60 cents per share, from $698 million, or 45 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding special items, the company earned 63 cents per share. On that basis, analysts' average forecast was 62 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Abbott shares gained more than 2 percent in premarket trading.

Sales rose 13.8 percent to $6.77 billion, above the Wall Street forecast of $6.53 billion. But sales would have risen only 8.3 percent if not for the weak dollar, which boosts the value of overseas sales when converted back to dollars.

Global sales of prescription drugs jumped 14.3 percent to $3.85 billion, while sales of Abbott's line of diagnostics were up 17.1 percent to $832 million. Sales of vascular products, including overseas revenue from its new Xience drug-coated stent, rose 7.6 percent to $452 million.

Chicago-based Abbott is one of the highest-priced US drugmaker stocks; the shares trade at almost 15 times expected 2009 per-share earnings, largely due to optimism that Xience will win U.S. approval in the second quarter and become a blockbuster product.

The tiny scaffold-like device, used to prop open heart arteries that have been cleared of plaque, will compete with Johnson & Johnson's Cypher stent and Boston Scientific's Taxus.

Abbott's revenue growth could also be helped by Simcor, a new pill that combines the active ingredient of Merck's Zocor drug, used to reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol, with Abbott's Niaspan medicine, which raises "good" HDL cholesterol.