Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC
Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) posted stronger-than-expected first-quarter sales, as the drugmaker awaits a ruling from US health regulators on whether use of its coronavirus vaccine can resume.

For the full year, J&J said that it expected adjusted earnings per share of $9.42 to $9.57, narrowing guidance of $9.40 to $9.60 given in January, compared with the average Wall Street estimate of $9.50. First-quarter revenue was $22.32bn, outpacing the average analyst estimate of $21.98bn.

The US (and SA) paused use of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine last week after reports that six women had developed serious but rare blood clots in the brain after receiving the shot. On Friday, a panel of medical experts reviewing data on the adverse events could vote on whether the hold should end. As of April 15, 7.7-million people in the US had received the shot.

J&J CFO Joseph Wolk told Bloomberg in January that the company was likely to project full-year revenue for its Covid-19 vaccine in April. Though J&J reported sales of the vaccine to the tune of $100m in the US in the first quarter, it didn’t forecast sales for 2021 amid the uncertainty. J&J is offering the shot on a not-for-profit basis, at no more than $10 a dose, for the duration of the pandemic.

The company has said it believes in the positive benefit-risk profile of shot. Executives are expected to address the pause on a morning earnings call with investors.

J&J also boosted its dividend on Tuesday by 5%, from $1.01 a share to $1.06 a share. In premarket trading, J&J shares slipped 0.3% to $162.21. Since the start of this year, the stock had climbed 3.4% through Monday.

The company’s pharmaceutical unit continues to account for more than half its sales, and revenue in the division jumped 10% to $12.2bn in the first quarter. One standout was immunotherapy drug Stelara, which saw sales surge 18% to $2.2bn.

Though the pandemic had taken a toll on J&J’s medical device sales as patients put off surgeries and other procedures, the unit showed strong recovery in the first quarter, with sales rising 11% from a year earlier to $6.58bn.

But consumer sales slipped 2.3% year on year to $3.54bn. The healthcare behemoth said the steep decline from the first quarter of 2020 reflects the drastic pandemic pantry-loading that took place early last year as consumers stocked up on items such as Tylenol and Listerine.

Overall, J&J reported first-quarter adjusted earnings per share of $2.59, up from $2.30 a year earlier.

– Bloomberg News. For more articles like this please visit Bloomberg.com

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