Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Bristol-Myers stock slips

By Theresa Agovino
The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. wiped away $900 million in profits and $2.5 billion in revenues reported from 1999 through 2001 to correct for an artificial boost from aggressive sales incentives that created a massive inventory glut.

Bristol-Myers also reported 2002 earnings Monday that were down sharply from the previous year and reaffirmed its earnings guidance for this year.

"Completing this restatement is another important step in focusing the company on delivering our 2003 results," chief financial officer Andrew Bonfield said.

Analysts said Bristol-Myers' future prospects aren't as clear as they had hoped they would be after the restatement, which they have awaited since the fall. They say Bristol-Myers failed to give them adequate information on earnings, product sales or how the inventory glut will affect the first few quarters of this year.

Without such information, analysts said it was difficult to determine how Bristol-Myers would meet its projected 2003 earnings.

"Even with the restatement, we seem to have more questions than answers," said David Moskowitz, an analyst with Friedman, Billings, Ramsey.

Bristol-Myers shares fell 29 cents to close at $22.51 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The revision reduced profit from continuing operations by $900 million and sales by $2.5 billion for the years 1999, 2000 and 2001. But it raised profit by $200 million and sales by $653 million for the first six months of 2002.

For all of 2002, Bristol-Myers earned $1.9 billion, or 98 cents a share, from $4.9 billion, or $2.51 a share, in 2001. Sales edged up to $18.1 billion from $17.99 billion in 2001.

Bristol-Myers wouldn't specify what earnings would have been before one-time items and revenue lost as wholesalers worked down inventory.

The company said it still expected 2003 earnings of $1.60 to $1.65 a share.

"I think it is a positive that Bristol-Myers released the numbers, but the prospects for its future are still muddy," said Standard & Poor's analyst Arthur Wong.

Patent issues led to the restatement and will continue to be a problem for the company. Wong said that over the next two years, Bristol-Myers is slated to lose patents on several important drugs that account for $1.5 billion in sales.

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