How Will Q1 Results Impact Abbott Laboratories' Stock?


Since spinning off AbbVie at the beginning of the year, Abbott Laboratories' stock has done pretty well, rising over 13%. The company announced first-quarter financial results on Wednesday. How will these results impact Abbott's nice stock run?

The numbers looked pretty good. Adjusted earnings for the first quarter came in at $0.42 per diluted share. That amount was near the high end of Abbott Laboratories' previous guidance and narrowly beat the average analyst estimates of $0.41 per share.

Abbott reported total sales for the first quarter of $5.38 billion, up 1.8% compared to the same quarter last year. Analysts, though, were expecting higher revenue of $5.41 billion.

The company confirmed its prior full-year 2013 adjusted earnings guidance of $1.98 to $2.04 per share. GAAP earnings projections for the full year are $1.39 to $1.45 per share. Abbott also estimated that second-quarter adjusted earnings would be in the $0.43 to $0.45 per share range, with GAAP earnings for second quarter of $0.27 to $0.29 per share.

These results marked the first quarter for Abbott Labs without Humira. AbbVie now has the blockbuster arthritis drug -- along with its growth power. The days of impressive double-digit growth for Abbott are in the past.

With the brand pharmaceuticals business spun off to AbbVie, Abbott's remaining divisions are Nutrition, Diagnostics, Established Pharmaceuticals, and Medical Devices. Two of those division are doing relatively well, but two lag behind.

Nutrition stands out as the shining star for Abbott Laboratories and perhaps the primary reason for continued interest in the stock. First quarter sales for the division were $1.7 billion, up 8.7% versus the same quarter of 2012. Emerging markets, in particular, saw strong operational growth of 20%.

Diagnostics sales increased 4.4% year-over-year to nearly $1.1 billion. Core laboratory diagnostics, the largest revenue-generator for the business segment, grew sales by 3.6%. Point-of-care diagnostics is the fastest-growing area, with $99 million in sales for the quarter representing a 17.3% jump over the prior year.

Established pharmaceuticals sales dropped by 1.9% compared to first quarter 2012 to $1.2 billion. The bright spot for this segment is in emerging markets like China, India, and Russia. Emerging market sales increased by 4.4%.

Medical devices remains the weakest segment for Abbott Laboratories. Sales dropped by 4.6% year-over-year to $1.3 billion. Vascular, in particular, underperformed with 7.7% lower sales than in the same period of 2012. This drop stems partially from expiration of Abbott's contract in mid-2012 to supply the Promus stent to Boston Scientific.

What do these results really mean for Abbott Laboratories' stock? Judging by the initial market reaction, the results could help. Shares jumped over 2% higher than the prior close in early trading.

Probably the most encouraging news was Abbott's continued strength in emerging markets. The Nutritionals business segment appears to have the potential to power reasonable levels of growth, largely from these markets.

My chief disappointment with the company is its relatively puny dividend. Abbott declared its 357th quarterly dividend of $0.14 per share. However, the dividend yield only stands at 1.5%. Meanwhile, AbbVie's yield is 3.7% -- much more in line with Abbott's historical levels. Abbott won't be a high-growth stock, so a better dividend would make shareholders happier.

Overall, the results for Abbott Laboratories were solid. The stock should continue to do well, especially if current weakness in developed markets improves. In my view, Abbott still looks like a decent, if not spectacular, stock pick as part of a broader portfolio.

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