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Abbott Labs 1Q Net Rose 44% On Strong Drug, Nutritional Sales

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Abbott Laboratories' (ABT) first-quarter earnings rose 44% as strong drug and nutritional sales contributed to improved margins. The health-care company also raised its full-year earnings guidance by 5 cents, now projecting $5 to $5.10 a share. Abbott's diverse portfolio had cushioned it from some of the problems, like patent expirations and generic competition, facing other large drug makers. But its bottom-line performance has been mixed in recent quarters as restructuring and acquisition charges masked revenue growth. The company has been on a buying spree in recent years in order to reduce its dependence on the anti-inflammatory Humira as the drug's U.S. patent expires in late 2016. Abbott also is in the midst of separating its proprietary drug unit and medical products business into two publicly traded companies by the end of this year. Last month, Abbott named its post-spinoff pharmaceutical company AbbVie, in a nod to the new company's origins and purpose. The health-care company said the name is derived from a combination of Abbott and vie, which references the Latin root vi, meaning life. Abbott Labs reported a profit of $1.24 billion, or 78 cents a share, up from $864 million, or 55 cents, a year earlier. Excluding items such as restructuring, acquisition and integration costs, earnings rose to $1.03 a share from 91 cents. Sales jumped 4.6% to $9.46 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had most recently forecast earnings of $1 a share on revenue of $9.37 billion. Operating margin rose to 16.7% from 14.4%. Proprietary pharmaceutical sales, the company's biggest segment by revenue, rose 7.1%. Nutritional sales, which include Similac and Ensure, grew 10%. The established products segment, which focuses on generic sales outside the U.S., saw a 1.6% sales decline. Core laboratory diagnostics sales were up 4.9%. Shares closed Tuesday at $60.43 and were inactive premarket. The stock has gained 9.2% over the past three months. -By Melodie Warner, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2283;

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