Abbott Labs shares pop as revenue, earnings defy steep drop in Covid test sales

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The Abbott manufacturing facility in Sturgis, Michigan, on May 13, 2022.
Jeff Kowalsky | AFP | Getty Images

Shares of Abbott Laboratories popped Wednesday after the company’s earnings and revenue topped Wall Street’s expectations, defying a dramatic slowdown in sales of its Covid-19 tests. 

The medical-products company posted adjusted earnings per share of $1.03. That’s above the average estimate of 99 cents per share, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv. Shares jumped over 7%.

Abbott reported revenue of $9.7 billion for the first quarter, slightly surpassing the Refinitiv estimate of $9.64 billion due to recovery in its medical devices business. But the Chicago-based company noted that revenue decreased by 18.1% from the same period last year, largely driven by a steep decline in global sales of its rapid Covid test. 

The company posted Covid-testing sales of $730 million during the three-month period, compared to $3.3 billion during the first quarter of 2022. 

Sales of Abbott’s 15-minute, $5 Covid test reached an all-time high during that period a year ago and have buoyed the company’s overall revenue since entering the U.S. market in 2020. 

But Abbott and other drugmakers like Pfizer and Moderna have been bracing for a drop-off in Covid-related sales this year as the world emerges from the pandemic amid slowing demand for blockbuster vaccines and treatments.

The medical-products company reported a net income of $1.3 billion, or 75 cents per share, compared to $2.45 billion, or $1.37 per share, during the year-earlier period.

Excluding certain items, Abbott’s adjusted earnings per share of $1.03 fell from $1.73 adjusted EPS that it posted in the first quarter of 2022.

Abbott Chair and CEO Robert Ford said during an earnings call that Covid-related headwinds may actually be easing. 

“As we moved through the first part of the year, that’s exactly what we continued to see,” he said. “Most notably, the impact of Covid has rapidly and significantly lessened.”

Still, Abbott lowered its outlook for Covid-testing sales this year to $1.5 billion, down from the $2 billion it forecast in January.

Strong sales in Abbott’s medical devices business fueled the company’s first-quarter beats. The unit raked in $3.9 billion in sales during the quarter, up nearly 9% from the same period last year. 

Abbott’s glucose-monitoring device Freestyle Libre alone contributed $1.2 billion in sales.  

Ford said the rise signals a recovery in demand for surgical procedures, pointing to an improvement in staffing levels at hospitals across the U.S. 

“I think the hospital systems have done a really good job right now at managing through the staffing shortages, and we’re starting to see the impact there,” Ford said during the call. 

The strong results come after rival Johnson & Johnson reported similar growth in its own medical devices unit, noting that surgical procedures are “well in recovery.”

Abbott’s stock is up more than 2% year to date, pushing its market value to around $195 billion.

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