Drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. said Thursday its first-quarter profit jumped 33 percent, due to higher sales, a payment from a lawsuit and a charge a year earlier.
Bristol-Myers, which sells blockbuster blood thinner Plavix and bipolar disorder treatment Abilify, said its net income was $986 million, or 57 cents per share. That's up from $743 million, or 43 cents per share, in 2010's first quarter.
Excluding several small accounting charges and gains, net income was $1 billion, or 58 cents per share.
Revenue rose 4 percent to $5.01 billion, from $4.81 billion a year ago, on higher sales of blockbuster blood thinner Plavix and several other medicines.
The results topped the expectations of analysts surveyed by FactSet, who were anticipating earnings per share of 53 cents and revenue of $4.98 billion. Analysts typically exclude one-time items.
Credit Suisse analyst Catherine Arnold attributed the strong performance to higher-than-expected revenue, mainly outside the U.S., and lower spending on research and other areas.
She wrote to investors that Bristol-Myers' "decent beat" wasn't driven by factors "that can lead to long-term forecast upgrades." She added that the stock price "is fully valued," and maintained her "Neutral," or "Hold," rating.
New York-based Bristol noted the Food and Drug Administration approved an important new skin cancer drug during the quarter.
The company also confirmed the 2011 profit forecast it gave in January, for earnings per share of $2 to $2.10, or $2.10 to $2.20 excluding one-time items.
Sales in the United States rose 5 percent to $3.3 billion, and international sales hit $1.8 billion, up 3 percent, or 1 percent excluding the impact of favorable exchange rates.
Sales were led by Plavix, the world's second best-selling drug, up 6 percent to $1.76 billion. Bristol-Myers and partner Sanofi-Aventis SA jointly market Plavix and blood pressure drug Avapro, which brought in $290 million.
That amount was down 8 percent because of recalls in the U.S. and several other countries that interrupted the supply of Avapro; one of the three dosage forms is still not back on the market.
But Bristol saw double-digit sales increases for Baraclude for hepatitis B, rheumatoid arthritis treatment Orencia and Sprycel for leukemia, which together brought in $646 million. Abilify, the company's No. 2 product, had flat sales at $624 million.
"The strength of our financial and R&D performance in the first quarter confirms our ability to execute our focused (biopharmaceutical) strategy and helps position us for long-term success," Chief Executive Lamberto Andreotti said in a statement.
Unlike its many rivals diversifying into consumer, animal and generic drugs, Bristol-Myers has concentrated on developing complex and lucrative biologic drugs, which are produced in living cells rather than by mixing chemicals.
In March, Bristol-Myers got U.S. approval for Yervoy, the first drug for advanced melanoma proven to increase survival. It has already started shipping the pricey injected biologic drug, which is expected to cost $30,000 for each of four treatment cycles.
"Our string of achievements in the quarter is a good start to an exciting year in which we are anticipating several key regulatory decisions and the presentation of important data across our portfolio," Andreotti said.
The company said European Union regulators gave positive opinions during the first quarter on two other new drugs, indicating they could be approved there soon. Those are Nulojix, for adult kidney transplant patients, and Eliquis, for the prevention of venous thromboembolic events, or blood clots, in adults who have undergone elective hip or knee replacement surgery.
Bristol had one setback in February, when the company and partner Eli Lilly and Co. stopped enrollment of patients in one of two mid-stage studies of a drug for non-small cell lung cancer, necitumumab, due to worries about blood clots. Patients in that study will keep receiving the drug, and the companies will continue a separate late-stage study testing it against another form of lung cancer.
The company also made one small deal, a partnership with China's WuXi PharmaTech, which will build a facility in Shanghai for testing the stability of experimental drugs.
Shares of the company rose 1 cent to $28.29.