5 Things You Need to Know From Bristol-Myers Squibb's Q4 Update

By Keith Speights Markets Fool.com

Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) announced its fourth-quarter and full-year 2016 financial results before the market opened on Thursday. The big drugmaker topped expectations in earlier quarters last year. This time, though, Bristol-Myers Squibb didn't report a positive surprise. Here are five key things you need to know from the company's fourth-quarter update.

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Sizzling revenue growth

Bristol-Myers Squibb announced fourth-quarter revenue of$5.2 billion. That's 22% higher than the $4.3 billion in revenue reported in the prior-year period. For full-year 2016, the company posted revenue of $19.4 billion, up 17% year over year.

This sizzling revenue growth exceeded expectations. The consensus analysts' revenue estimate was $5.13 billion. BMS' fourth-quarter revenue was also the highest quarterly figure the company has reported in the last five years.

Great earnings growth -- but not great enough

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The company reported fourth-quarter earnings of$894 million, or$0.53per share. That reflected a big improvement from thenet loss of$197 million, or$0.12per share, reported in the prior-year period. For the full-year 2016, Bristol-Myers Squibb posted earnings of $4.5 billion, or $2.65 per diluted share -- up 185% from 2015.

BMS announced fourth-quarter non-GAAP (adjusted) earnings of $1.1 billion, or $0.63 per diluted share. Although that reflected strong growth of 66% compared to the prior-year period, it wasn't enough to impress Wall Street. The average analysts' estimate was for the company to report adjusted earnings per share of $0.67.

For full-year 2016, BMS posted non-GAAP earnings of $4.8 billion, or $2.83. This number came in 41% higher than the previous year's result. However, the company again fell short of analysts' expectations for adjusted earnings for the year of $2.86 per share.

Improving cash position

Bristol-Myers Squibb had$9.1 billion in cash at the end of 2016, including cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities. That's up from $8.6 billion reported as of Sept. 30, 2016.

The company also reduced its long-term debt some in the fourth quarter, from $5.8 billion at the end of September to $5.7 billion at the end of December. As a result of this debt reduction and BMS' increased cash on hand, the company's net cash position improved from $1.8 billion at the end of the third quarter to $2.4 billion at the end of the fourth quarter.

What's driving growth -- and what isn't

As you might expect, Bristol-Myers Squibb benefited tremendously in the fourth quarter from increasing sales for Opdivo. The cancer drug generated worldwide revenue of $1.3 billion in the quarter, nearly tripling the $475 million reported in the same quarter of 2015.

BMS also saw strong growth for Eliquis. The anticoagulant brought in sales of $948 million in the fourth quarter, a 57% year-over-year increase. Other solid performers included leukemia drug Sprycel and rheumatoid arthritis drug Orencia.

Fourth-quarter sales for Yervoy, however, were basically flat compared to the prior-year period. For the full year, the cancer drug saw a 6% decline in sales from 2015.

The company's greatest sales declines came from its virology drugs. Sales for its hepatitis C franchise plunged 51% in the fourth quarter from the year-ago period. HIV drugs Reyataz and Sustiva saw sales drop 24% and 21%, respectively.

Weaker-than-expected guidance

Probably the biggest disappointment from Bristol-Myers Squibb's update, though, was its guidance for 2017. Analysts had estimated adjusted earnings per share next year would be in the range of $2.71 to $2.96. BMS previously projected adjusted earnings per share for 2017 would come in between $2.85 and $3.05.

Now, however, the company thinks adjusted earnings per share will be lower -- in the range of $2.70 to $2.90. This lowered guidance reflects the disappointing results announced in 2016 from a late-stage clinical study of Opdivo as a first-line treatment of lung cancer.

Looking ahead

Bristol-Myers Squibb's shares fell around 2% in early trading following the company's announcement of fourth-quarter and full-year 2016 results. That's to be expected, considering the earnings miss and the lower guidance for this year.

Despite the disappointing news, I think the stock should still perform well over the long run. The company plans to continue exploring opportunities for Opdivo combined with other drugs. Its stock is valued attractively, especially factoring in the growth potential. Bristol-Myers Squibb might have hit a bump in the road, but it's still moving forward.

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Keith Speights has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.