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UPDATE: J&J Meets 4th-quarter Profit Target, Misses On Revenue

By Val Brickates Kennedy

BOSTON (Dow Jones) - Health care giant Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday reported a rise in net income, meeting analyst expectations, but saw its revenue fall more than 1% in the wake of weaker-than-expected sales from its core pharmaceuticals division.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average component(JNJ)posted net income of $2.2 billion, or 73 a cents a share, compared with $1.2 billion, or 41 cents, earned in the year-earlier period. A year ago the results included a charge of $789 million, or 26 cents a share, related to taxes on the profits repatriated under the American Jobs Creation Act.

Revenue fell 1.1% to $12.61 billion from $12.75 billion. The latest quarter included 13 weeks against 14 weeks in 2004.

According to a poll by Thomson First Call, analysts on average had expected the company to earn 73 cents a share on revenue of $13.18 billion.

Shares of J&J sank 2.6% to $59.63 in recent dealings.

During a conference call with analysts, J&J's chairman and chief executive officer attributed many of the conglomerate's top-line problems to ongoing drug patent expirations and a tougher regulatory climate.

The past year "had significant challenges, many of which are endemic to our industry," William Weldon said. The executive also said the company was in for " challenging times ahead."

J&J management declined to discuss the company's proposed acquisition of rival medical devices maker Guidant Corp. on the call.

According to analysts on the call, J&J management said they now see 2006 earnings per share coming in between $3.78 and $3.85 a share. The current Wall Street consensus is for $3.79.

Domestic sales for the quarter fell 4.2%, while international sales grew 3.1%, hurt by a negative currency impact of 4.4%, J&J said.

More specifically, J&J said quarterly worldwide pharmaceutical sales were off 6.1% from last year, coming in at $5.48 billion.

Weldon said that although sales of such lucrative products as its psychiatric medication Risperdal and rheumatoid-arthritis therapy Remicade showed healthy growth, the company was hurt by the loss of patent protection for Duragesic and Ultracet, both painkillers.

Referring to intellectual property, "I.P. remains an ongoing challenge," Weldon added.

Weldon also said heightened public fears over drug safety have weighed on sales of its cardiac drug Natrecor and birth-control patch Ortho Evra. The Food and Drug Administration recently requested that both products have their labeling revised to reflect certain safety risks.

Weldon also said that while sales of the company's anemia drug Procrit were sluggish, J&J remains committed to growing market share. Amgen(AMGN)also sells versions of the multibillion-dollar drug under the brand names Epogen and Aranesp.

Medical-device sales were cheerier for J&J, rising 3.7% to $4.82 billion. Management said that sales of its Cypher drug-coated stent were the major driver behind the unit's performance. Cypher is second only to Boston Scientific(BSX)in the drug-coated stent market.

Sales of consumer products, which include such brand names as Aveeno and Neutrogena, added 2% to $2.3 billion.

J&J is currently in a bidding war with medical-device rival Boston Scientific to acquire Guidant Corp.(GDT), a maker of implantable coronary devices and stents. J&J's most recent bid is $71 a share against Boston Scientific's offer of $80.