Bristol-Myers Squibb Co set a better-than-expected baseline for profits in 2013 as it provided investors their first glimpse of life after Plavix, the second-largest selling drug in the world.

Bristol on Thursday projected 2013 earnings, excluding items, of at least $1.95 per share. That would appear to be a potential decline of as much as 13 percent from its earlier forecast for a 2010 profit range of $2.15 to $2.25, excluding items.

But the 2013 forecast was above the $1.86-per-share consensus estimate from analysts, according to Thomson Reuters


The company, which earlier this week named a new CEO, did not provide any earnings views for 2011 or 2012. It is expecting 2013 to be a low point, with a resumption of growth in 2014 and beyond.

I am fully confident in our ability to deliver on our three major strategic imperatives -- driving our performance in the next few years, improving our earnings base in 2013 and sustaining growth in 2014 and beyond, said Lamberto Andreotti, Bristol's president and chief operating officer who on Tuesday was named as successor to Chief Executive James Cornelius.

2013 marks the first full year that Bristol-Myers will be hit with generic competition for Plavix -- the $8 billion-a-year blood clot preventer it shares with French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis , and that loses patent protection in 2012.

The 2013 outlook assumes strong revenue trends for key products, additional cost savings and significant contributions from experimental products that have yet to be approved. It excludes any possible deals the company may make.

The long-term forecast comes ahead of a half-day business update later on Thursday that the company is holding for analysts and fund managers in New York. The session will include an overview of Bristol's lineup of experimental medicines.

To manage through its Plavix patent cliff, Bristol has employed what it calls a string of pearls strategy in which it boosts revenue through a continuing series of small or mid-size deals.

That contrasts with rivals Pfizer
and Merck , which struck massive acquisitions of rival drugmakers last year to help weather generic competition to their own blockbuster products. It has long been speculated that Bristol itself was a possible takeout target for larger rivals.

Bristol-Myers shares closed at $24.33 on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf and Bill Berkrot; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Maureen Bavdek)