Bristol-Myers Squibb reported a disappointing quarterly profit and forecast roughly flat earnings this year instead of the 3 percent growth Wall Street expected for the drugmaker.
Rivals Eli Lilly and Co, Johnson & Johnson and Abbott Laboratories Inc also issued cautious 2011 forecasts this week, faced with higher costs from U.S. healthcare reform as well as pressure from governments and insurers to curb prices.
Bristol-Myers said on Thursday that it had earned $483 million, or 28 cents per share, in the fourth quarter. That compared with $8.03 billion, or 41 cents per share, in the year-earlier period, when it recorded a $7.2 billion after-tax gain from the split-off of its Mead Johnson nutritionals business.
Excluding special items, Bristol-Myers earned 47 cents per share, 1 cent shy of the average forecast of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 2 percent to $5.11 billion, above Wall Street expectations of $5.06 billion.
Bristol-Myers said it expected earnings per share, excluding special items, of $2.10 to $2.20 this year, in line with $2.16 in 2010. Analysts were counting on $2.23.
The profit picture will deteriorate on May 17, 2012, when Bristol-Myers and partner Sanofi-Aventis lose U.S. marketing exclusivity on their Plavix blood-clot preventer, and the $6.7 billion-a-year medicine faces competition from cheaper generics.
Bristol-Myers did not provide a forecast for 2012, but said it expected a profit, excluding items, of at least $1.95 per share in 2013 -- the first full year Plavix will confront the generic onslaught. In effect, its earnings that year may be only slightly better than those seen in 2009.
But industry analysts are hopeful that Bristol-Myers' profits will rebound fairly quickly afterward, helped by its highly promising experimental medicines now in late stages of testing.
They include a newer blood clot preventer called apixaban and a treatment for melanoma called ipilimumab, both of which are deemed potential blockbuster products.
(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; editing by John Wallace and Lisa Von Ahn)