Johnson & Johnson 1Q profit jumps 12.5 per cent as lower spending offsets slight sales dip

Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that its first-quarter profit jumped 12.5 per cent on lower spending on research, sales and administration and a boost from selling rights to a drug.

Its revenue slipped due to generic competition.

The health care giant yet again said it will take longer than anticipated to return many recalled consumer products to stores and to rebuild a factory that made them because of serious quality problems there.

The company initially said Tylenol, Motrin and other nonprescription drugs would all return to store shelves by mid-2012, but the latest delay pushes that back to well into next year.

The costs to rebuild the factory, and for extra regulatory inspections of two others that make J&J’s nonprescription drugs, are coming in higher than expected, although company executives did not give details.

“I was surprised and a little bit concerned,” said Les Funtleyder, an analyst and health care portfolio manager at Miller Tabak. “Nothing’s gone as planned in the remediation. If there’s another pushback, my concern will rise.”

Johnson & Johnson said net income rose to $3.91 billion, or $1.41 per share, from $3.48 billion, or $1.25 per share, in 2011’s first quarter.

Excluding costs related to J&J’s pending $21 billion acquisition of orthopedics device maker Synthes and a benefit from currency exchange rates, the company earned $1.37 per share.

Revenue dipped 0.2 per cent to $16.14 billion from $16.17 billion.

According to a survey by FactSet, analysts expected lower adjusted earnings of $1.35 per share on higher revenue of $16.28 billion.

The New Brunswick, N.J., company raised its annual profit forecast by 2 cents to $5.07 to $5.17 per share, excluding one-time items. Analysts expect earnings per share of $5.11 for the year.

Chief Financial Officer Dominic Caruso also forecast that revenue for the full year will be up slightly, to $66.5 billion to $68 billion. That’s after the manufacturing problems and the recession caused sales to fall in two of the last three years. Analysts expect revenue of $67.3 billion.

Meanwhile, William C. Weldon will step down on April 26 after a decade as CEO, and will be succeeded by Alex Gorsky, head of J&J’s medical device business and one of J&J’s two vice chairmen.

“I certainly don’t expect to see any changes,” Caruso said, responding to an analyst’s question. He said the company will stick with its “tried and true” philosophy of decentralized management and managing for the long term.

“We remain optimistic for the remainder of the year and we see opportunity for growth as the global economy stabilizes,” Caruso said.

J&J shares rose 24 cents to close at $64.22 Tuesday. Its shares have fallen from $66.21 per share in early April but are up from their 52-week low of $59.08 in early August.

Its first-quarter earnings got a lift from a 5.4 per cent decline in spending on research and development to $1.65 million. That was mainly because J&J didn’t have to make any milestone payments to partners from whom it has licensed rights to experimental drugs, Caruso said.

Costs for sales, marketing and administration dipped nearly 1 per cent to $5.02 million, as the company continues its belt-tightening.

Also helping earnings was an increase in “other income” to $611 million from $3.8 million a year ago. That was mainly from the sale of high blood pressure drug Bystolic to Forest Laboratories Inc. for $357 million during the quarter.

Total U.S. revenue fell 5 per cent to $7.22 billion. That decline was offset by a 4 per cent rise in international sales, mostly in North and South America outside the U.S.

Revenue rose 1.2 per cent for prescription drugs to $6.13 billion as sales from new medicines made up for lower sales from two medicines that got generic competition last spring, Levaquin for serious infections and Concerta for attention deficit disorder.

But revenue was down in J&J’s other two businesses. Sales of medical devices and diagnostic equipment, the company’s biggest segment, slipped 0.3 per cent to $6.41 billion. Consumer product sales fell 2.4 per cent to $3.6 billion, due to the many products still not back in stores.

The company has had nearly 30 recalls since September 2009 for Tylenol and a host of other nonprescription medicines, plus faulty hip implants and contact lenses and a couple of its prescription drugs.

J&J continues to lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue because of the manufacturing quality problems. The company is operating under increased government oversight and was forced to gut and rebuild a huge factory in suburban Philadelphia.

It’s also recently been hit by a fine of more than $1.1 billion from an Arkansas judge for downplaying and concealing risks of its former blockbuster schizophrenia drug Risperdal, such as major weight gain and developing diabetes. That ruling, could affect dozens of pending lawsuits over the drug, many by states seeking reimbursement for what their Medicaid programs paid for the drug.

The company said Tuesday that it is seeking to have the verdict dismissed and will appeal if it doesn’t succeed, stating that the penalty is excessive and “not justified by the evidence presented at the trial.”

Eric Gordon, an analyst and professor at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, said the company will have to keep cutting costs “to make up for soft sales in devices and the recall hangover in consumer products,” as well as “Risperdal settlements and judgments that are going to keep piling up.”

In December, a South Carolina judge upheld a $327 million civil penalty against J&J over Risperdal, and in January the company reached a $158 million settlement with Texas in which it didn’t admit fault. J&J also is negotiating a settlement with the federal government that’s expected to exceed $1 billion.