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Johnson & Johnson's 4Q profit jumps 19 per cent on higher prescription drug sales, tax benefit

Surging sales of Johnson & Johnson's prescription medicines and the rebound of its recall-plagued consumer health business lifted fourth-quarter profit 19 per cent.

The health care giant also enjoyed a $707 million tax benefit from writing off money-losing subsidiary Scios.

However, shares fell on J&J's less-stellar 2014 profit forecast due to factors including continued pressures for lower prices.

The maker of baby shampoo and biological drugs said Tuesday that fourth-quarter net income was $3.52 billion, or $1.23 per share, up from $2.57 billion, or 91 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, income was $1.24 per share. Analysts expected 4 cents less.

Revenue totalled $18.36 billion, up 4.5 per cent. Analysts expected $17.94 billion, according to FactSet.

"Each of Johnson & Johnson's three main business units reported better sales than investors were expecting ... despite a negative impact due to currency (rates) of over 3 per cent," noted Edward Jones analyst Judson Clark.

CEO Alex Gorsky noted J&J got three new medicines approved last year — Invokana for Type 2 diabetes, Olysio for hepatitis C and Imbruvica for lymphoma. It expects to apply for approval of 10 more by 2017.

Prescription drug sales rose 12 per cent to $7.3 billion, led by higher sales of immune disorder drugs, plus Zytiga for prostate cancer and HIV drug Prezista.

Consumer product sales rose 2.8 per cent to $3.75 billion. About 75 per cent of J&J's consumer medicines, including pain relievers Tylenol and Motrin, are now back in stores.

They'd been off store shelves for a few years amid dozens of product recalls since 2009. J&J is under increased scrutiny from regulators over quality deficiencies and had to rebuild a key factory that hasn't reopened yet.

Sales of medical devices and diagnostics dipped 1 per cent to $7.31 billion. J&J expects to close the sale of its Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics business to private equity firm Carlyle Group for $4.15 billion by June.

For 2013, J&J reported net income of $13.83 billion, up 27 per cent, and earnings per share of $4.81. Sales totalled $71.31 billion, up 6.1 per cent.

Analyst Steve Brozak of WBB Securities warned J&J can't sustain the growth of its high-profit prescription drug business — because insurers and patients can't afford ever-higher prices for newer drugs, which often cost over $20,000 a year.

The New Brunswick, N.J., company forecast 2014 earnings per share of $5.75 to $5.85. Analysts expected $5.86.

J&J shares closed down $1.03 at $94.03.


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