- Associated Press - Thursday, January 28, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. swung from a tiny profit to a loss in the fourth quarter as it fought multiple headwinds, but it still beat Wall Street expectations.

Heavy charges the drugmaker took for asset acquisitions and a failed research program outweighed slightly higher sales and new medicine approvals.

Results also were hurt by recent U.S. generic competition to blockbuster schizophrenia drug Abilify, plus the strong dollar, which reduces the value of sales made overseas in local currencies.

Other U.S. multinational drugmakers have been reporting declining sales in recent quarters, due to both unfavorable exchange rates and cheaper generics cutting into their brand-name drug sales. But Bristol’s growing portfolio of lucrative cancer medicines, along with blockbuster clot-preventing drug Eliquis, give it a more-positive trajectory, and several analysts have been rating the company as the best stock buy among U.S. drugmakers.

Bristol-Myers, which makes cancer drugs and arthritis treatment Orencia, said Thursday that its net loss for the latest quarter was $308 million, or 8 cents per share. A year earlier, Bristol-Myers posted a profit of $13 million, or 1 cent per share.

However, the New York-based company’s adjusted fourth-quarter results, which exclude $785 million in after-tax charges for numerous one-time items, came to a profit of $647 million, or 38 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet were expecting 29 cents per share.

The one-time charges, before taxes, include a total of $525 million in upfront payments for acquiring rights to a Cardioxyl Pharmaceuticals Inc. drug for acute heart failure and for licensing rights to Five Prime Therapeutics Inc.’s program of antibody-based experimental drugs for cancer and immune disorders. Bristol-Myers also took a $152 million charge for discontinuing a drug development program and took a $171 million loss for transferring away rights to an old cancer drug, Erbitux.

Revenue edged up 1 percent, to $4.29 billion, which beat analyst expectations for $4.15 billion. The strong dollar reduced revenue by 5 percent.

Combined sales of Yervoy and Opdivo, groundbreaking drugs that fight cancer by stimulating the immune system, doubled to $740 million. Both got approvals for treating additional types of cancer, alone or in drug combinations, during the fourth quarter. They’re now approved for treating advanced skin, lung and kidney cancer, including in patients with certain genetic variations.

Eliquis, which the company markets with partner Pfizer Inc., brought in $602 million, more than double a year ago.

Sales of Orencia rose 22 percent to $540 million, while Abilify sales nosedived to $39 million from $476 million a year earlier, before generic copies started flooding the market in April.

The company forecast 2016 adjusted profit of $2.30 to $2.40 per share. Analysts were expecting, on average, $2.34 per share.

For all of 2015, Bristol-Myers posted net income of $1.62 billion, or 97 cents per share, and revenue of $14.05 billion.


Follow Linda A. Johnson at https://twitter.com/lindaj_onpharm

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