Filling baby bottles and treating disease... these are the habits of Abbott. Abbott Laboratories is a top health care products manufacturer. Its nutritional products division makes such well-known brands as Similac infant formula and the Ensure line of nutrition supplements, while its drug division sells branded generic medicines (such as antibiotics and gastroenterology medicines) in international markets. The company also makes diagnostic instruments (including tests and assays), vascular medical devices such as its Xience drug-eluting stents, and the FreeStyle diabetes care line, as well as eye care products. Abbott spun off its non-generic pharmaceutical operations into AbbVie in 2013.
Abbott's products are sold in about 150 countries. The company earns about 30% of revenues in the domestic market, while another 30% take place in Australia, Canada, Japan, and Western Europe. The remaining 40% of Abbott's earnings come from emerging markets such as Brazil, China, India, and Russia.
After more than a year of planning, Abbott separated its medical and pharmaceutical operations in January 2013 by distributing shares of the newly public AbbVie to its shareholders. Flatly put, the split separated Abbott's stable business from its riskier operations -- while the pharma unit accounted for roughly half of Abbott's revenues, its R&D work was inherently more expensive and riskier, and a number of its commercial products face patent expiration over the next few years.
The Abbott name sticks with the diversified medical products unit, which includes its nutritional, branded generic pharmaceutical, diagnostic, and medical device businesses. Each business previously accounted for about 10% to 15% of the company's revenues. Strong international sales in emerging markets are driving the unit's growth.
Drug-coated stent Xience is one of the company's key products in the medical devices segment and key to its growth initiatives. The vascular device has been able to penetrate the market to the point that it poses a challenge to the leading drug-coated stent made by Boston Scientific. In addition to vascular stents and catheters, other innovative medical products include a genetic identification system for the clinical diagnostics market, information management systems for diagnostic laboratories, and a range of products for surgical equipment and cataract and vision correction procedures (including LASIK equipment) through its Abbott Medical Optics subsidiary.
In the face of multiple challenges, Abbott remained strong in the global business market in 2011. It delivered double-digit ongoing earnings growth for its fifth year in a row, with record operating cash flow, and an improved gross margin of more than 60% on an adjusted basis. The company returned about $3 billion to shareholders in the form of dividends, which have risen consecutively for the past 39 years. Abbott's stock price also performed well, representing the company's best annual return in five years.
Although Abbott's revenue has grown steadily over the past five years, with growth in each of its segments, Abbott has yet to achieve the level of net earnings it held in 2009. Earnings in 2011 remained fairly flat from 2010, increasing little more than 2%, although the company is working to position itself for future growth through restructuring and hopes that hiving off future patent expiration losses into the AbbVie spinoff in 2013 will improve its returns.
Across the years, Abbott has made acquisitions and strategic alliances to bolster its offerings, as well as its geographic presence. After swallowing up several businesses, Abbott reshuffled its organization to help it run like the well-oiled giant it is, conducting job cuts and plant consolidations in the US and Europe during 2010 and 2011.
In the R&D realm, Abbott is hard at work on developing next-generation Xience products that include Xience nano, a version of the product for use in small vessels and Xience PRIME, a next-generation version Xience being tested in a range of sizes including small vessel and long lengths. In addition, Abbott has steadily grown its medical device offerings for other therapeutic applications, as well as its lineup of clinical diagnostics tools.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In 2010 Abbott moved to bolster its position in the growing field of laboratory informatics by acquiring Tel Aviv-based STARLIMS Technologies, a provider of laboratory information management systems (LIMS), for about $123 million in cash. STARLIMS began buying out some of its longtime distribution partners in 2012 as part of its efforts to expand its LIMS business in Europe and emerging markets in Latin America and Africa.
The company also acquired several pharmaceutical businesses during 2010. Some of these operations were included in the AbbVie spinoff, while others bolstered Abbott's generic drug manufacturing operations. – less