Good Nutrition Helps Abbott Labs Q2 Earnings Grow

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Investors looking to find out how well Abbott Labs performed in the second quarter had reason to be confused this morning. One headline stated that "Abbott's quarterly profit rises" while another said that the company's "second-quarter profit falls." Which headline was correct? Actually, both were. Let's look at Abbott's financial results to find out how and why.

By the numbers
Abbott reported net earnings for the quarter of $476 million, or $0.30 per diluted share. That's a 72% decline from the same quarter a year ago. However, Abbott Labs was a much different company one year ago. That was before the spinoff of AbbVie with its profit-generating Humira.

Including AbbVie's financial performance certainly skews any yearly comparisons. Abbott's profit increased almost 16% without AbbVie operations from last year in the numbers. Therefore, it is technically accurate to say that Abbott Labs' increased and decreased, depending on your perspective.

Of course, those are GAAP figures. When adjusted for special items, Abbott earned $0.46 per common share. That reflects a 7% year-over-year increase with discontinued operations (i.e., AbbVie) out of the equation. It also beat Wall Street expectations of $0.44 per share and was higher than the company's previous guidance.

Abbott announced quarterly revenue of $5.45 billion, up 2.5% from the same quarter last year without the impact of AbbVie. The top-line number fell below expectations, though. Analysts estimated revenue would come in at $5.52 billion.

Beyond the numbers
Nutrition continues to be the star performer for the company. The segment generated revenue of $1.7 billion, more than any other of Abbott's business units and up almost 8% compared to last year. That growth stems from international sales, which increased over 17% year-over-year to $990 million.

Diagnostics performed relatively well, also, with sales growth of 5.3% versus the same quarter in 2012. Abbott saw slower growth in its core lab business, with a 2.6% decline in U.S. sales. However, molecular and point of care diagnostics lines of business experienced double-digit sales growth.

Abbott is still struggling somewhat with its other business segments, though. Established pharmaceuticals sales dropped 2.3% from the second quarter of 2012. Medical devices revenue was down 1.6% year-over-year.

Foreign exchange rates weighed on both segments. However, both business units also saw more success internationally, particularly in emerging markets, than they did domestically.

Looking ahead
I tend to agree with Abbott CEO Miles White's statement that "all things considered, including headwinds from foreign exchange and a mixed global economy, this was a good quarter." It was a pretty good quarter. And it was good enough for Abbott to maintain full-year earnings guidance of $1.98 to $2.04, reflecting double-digit growth.

The company's nutrition business segment shows no signs of slowing down. Over the last quarter, Abbott launched 24 new nutritional products. Pediatric product sales in emerging markets should drive this segment for the foreseeable future.

Diagnostics should also remain solid, especially with continued growth in the area of infectious diseases. Abbott received U.S. regulatory approval last month for a hepatitis-C genotyping test that should contribute to the company's expansion in infectious diseases.

I don't expect a quick turnaround for the Established Pharmaceuticals segment. However, the company is taking the long-term view by building its business in 14 key emerging markets. Over time, these efforts could pay off.

Neither do I predict any great news for Abbott's Medical Devices segment in the near future. None of the three primary markets for the segment experienced sales growth last quarter. Even with the acquisition of IDEV Technologies and higher sales for the XIENCE Xpedition drug-eluting stent, I'm not expecting much from its medical devices this year.

Aside from weakness in established pharmaceuticals and medical devices, my only complaint with Abbott is that I wish its dividend yield was higher than 1.6%. AbbVie took Humira's profits and sports a much higher yield of 3.6%.

Abbott's shares traded higher by more than1% after the quarterly results were announced today. The stock has taken a breather for the past six weeks after gaining 20% year-to-date by May. The relatively good results from the second quarter could help Abbott climb back to its previous highs for the year.

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