Humira Propels AbbVie Inc. to a Solid First Quarter

Source: AbbVie.

This year has been somewhat lackluster so far for AbbVie shareholders. The stock was down as much as 15% before regaining some momentum in recent weeks. The drugmaker announced first-quarter financial results before the market opened on Thursday. Is AbbVie now on track to provide more sizzle for investors?

By the numbersWhile AbbVie's stock dropped by over 1% in early trading, the company seems to be heading in the right direction. AbbVie announced first-quarter generally accepted accounting principles sales of $5.04 billion, up 10.5% year over year. On an operational basis, which excludes the impact of currency fluctuations, revenue increased 17.8% from the same period in the prior year. Analysts were expecting revenue of $4.98 billion.

Earnings came in at $1.022 billion, or $0.63 per diluted share on a GAAP basis. Non-GAAP earnings were $0.94 per diluted share, a 32.4% increase from the same quarter last year. The consensus analysts' estimate called for earnings of $0.85 per share.

Source: AbbVie.

AbbVie again reported a solid gross margin, with a first-quarter adjusted gross margin ratio of 82.9% and a GAAP gross margin ratio of 81.3%.Adjusted selling, general, and administrative expenses consumed 26.7% of sales during the first quarter, while adjusted research and development expenses comprised 16.1% of sales. On a GAAP basis, AbbVie reported SG&A expenses of 29.2% of sales and R&D expenses of 16.1% of sales.

Behind the numbersHumira continued to be Abbvie's primary revenue driver. The anti-inflammatory drug generated revenue of $3.111 billion in the first quarter, up 18% from the same period last year. Its operational year-over-year growth was 26%.

AbbVie achieved similar rates of growth from a couple other drugs. Sales of Synthroid during the first quarter totaled $186 million, while Creon sales came in at $127 million. Both figures reflected increases of 18.8% from the first quarter of 2014.

The company also reported solid sales of its new hepatitis C regimen, Viekira Pak, which racked up revenue of $231 million in its first full quarter on the market. AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez noted the company "continued to gain momentum with the launch" of the new drug.

Looking aheadBased on the strong start in the first quarter, AbbVie raised its full-year earnings guidance. The company now expectsadjusted earnings between$4.10 and $4.30 per diluted share. That's up from the previous range of$4.05-$4.25 per share.

The pending acquisition of Pharmacyclics , expected to close in the next couple months, should be key to AbbVie's future. AbbVie will gain Imbruvica, Pharmacyclics' enormously successful blood cancer drug, along with a handful of other drugs in the pipeline.

AbbVie's main product will remain blockbuster Humira, which shows no signs of losing much momentum. With the rise of Viekira Pak and the acquisition of Imbruvica, however, Humira should lose some share of the company's total revenue.

Dividend growth, another plus for AbbVie's shareholders, also shows no signs of losing steam. In February, the company's board of directors increased AbbVie's dividend by 4%. The forward dividend yield now stands at 3.3%. Since the company's creation in 2013, AbbVie has raised its dividend payout by 28%. This strong dividend growth seems likely to continue in the days ahead with the solid performance AbbVie achieved in the first quarter.

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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. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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