Nearly two years removed from its largest corporate acquisition, Abbott Laboratories still sees plenty of room for growth in the portfolio of devices and intellectual property it bought through the $25 billion deal for Minnesota's St. Jude Medical.
"St. Jude, in the course of our acquisition negotiations with them, continued to talk to us [about] the veracity of their pipeline and how good it was. And to be honest, they were right. And that's proven," Abbott Chief Executive Miles White told investors Wednesday, responding to an analyst question about Abbott's growth prospects for 2019.
St. Jude's HeartMate 3 left-ventricular assist device is expected to receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration soon for a second indication that will greatly expand the market for the high-ticket device. Abbott is also completing clinical trial work for St. Jude's long-delayed Portico transcatheter aortic valve replacement device, which, if approved, would make Abbott only the third company in the U.S. to sell the lucrative devices.
Illinois-based Abbott is a diverse health care products company, with multibillion-dollar footprints in off-patent medicines, advanced diagnostics and nutritional products like Similac and Ensure. But its medical device catalog has become its largest revenue source, including fast-growing products that had nothing to do with St. Jude, like the FreeStyle Libre continuous glucose monitor and the minimally invasive MitraClip for leaky mitral valves.
In a quarterly earnings call with investors Wednesday morning after posting quarterly results that met Wall Street expectations, White said he was "pretty bullish" on the diversity of opportunity he sees in the device catalog. Rather than eyeing more ambitious acquisitions, White said Abbott is making "large" investments to expand manufacturing capacity for the consumer-oriented FreeStyle Libre and the clinician-facing Alinity line of advanced diagnostic systems.
"We don't have anything on our radar screen from the standpoint of [mergers and acquisitions] that we think is beneficial to us," White said. "We've got so much more opportunity in the company organically and out of our pipelines and the expansion of all the things we talked about earlier, that that's really where our focus is."
Despite posting a third-quarter financial performance in line with Wall Street expectations Wednesday, Abbott's stock slipped 1 percent to $70.23, as the company narrowed its full-year earnings forecast and revealed how increasingly costly global currency fluctuations wiped out what would have been 6 percent organic revenue growth in its established pharmaceuticals business.
Companywide, Abbott posted 75 cents of diluted adjusted earnings per share from continuing operations for the third quarter — an increase of 11 cents over the same quarter last year, meeting earnings forecasts.
Excluding debt amortization and restructuring expenses, the company recorded net earnings from continuing operations of $1.3 billion on $7.7 billion in sales during the third quarter. Companywide sales were up 12 percent, while adjusted diluted EPS grew by nearly 14 percent.
"This quarter came in pretty much as we expected. However, we observed that investor sentiment was running high going into this quarter's results, so we think some may look at these results and guidance as mildly disappointing," Edward Jones analyst John Boylan wrote to investors Wednesday morning.
Abbott's device sales grew 10 percent organically in the quarter to $2.8 billion, driven partly by growth in Confirm Rx insertable heart monitors and MitraClip minimally invasive devices to repair structural defects in the mitral valve.
The fastest-growing med-tech category was diabetes therapies, driven by wide adoption of the FreeStyle Libre — more than 1 million people worldwide are now using the body-worn glucose monitors, White said. Diabetes device sales were up 40 percent organically to $512 million in the quarter.
Abbott sold $400 million worth of electrophysiology products including Confirm Rx monitors, up 20 percent, and $305 million worth of structural heart products including the MitraClip device for mitral valve repair, up 15 percent. Sales of heart-rhythm devices like pacemakers and vascular products like stents were flat overall compared to last year, while sales of devices to treat heart failure fell by 9 percent.
Abbott also narrowed its earnings forecast for the year.
Under revised projections, Abbott is now expecting to achieve adjusted diluted earnings of between $2.87 and $2.89 per share from continuing operations. (The prior guidance range was $2.85 to $2.91.) For the forth quarter, Abbott is projecting 80 cents to 82 cents per share of adjusted diluted earnings.