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Johnson & Johnson Bottomline Surges

Johnson & Johnson, the world's largest maker of health care products, on Tuesday reported higher fourth quarter profits despite being hurt by the strong dollar.

Net income rose 13 percent to $630 million, or 47 cents a share, from $556 million, or 42 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter, driven by growth in pharmaceutical and professional sales, the company said.

Earnings were in line with analyst forecasts, according to the First Call research service. Worldwide sales for the fourth quarter were $5.6 billion, an increase of 2.3 percent over sales of $5.5 billion for the same period last year.

Domestic sales were up 5.2 percent.

Although international sales were up 9.6 percent in local currency, they were down 0.7 percent after taking into account the impact of the strong dollar.

For the year, net income rose 14 percent to $3.3 billion, or $2.47 a share, from $2.9 billion, or $2.17 per share, in 1996.

Worldwide sales rose 4.7 percent to $22.63 billion in 1997.

The annual results were also in line with analyst forecasts.

Pharmaceutical sales, up 7.1 percent for the year to $7.7 billion, were boosted by the company's anti-psychotic drug Risperdal; by Procrit, which treats anaemia; and by Propulsid, a gastrointestinal product.

Also contributing to the revenue growth were increases in the sales of Ultram, a centrally acting analgesic; Duragesic, a skin patch for chronic pain, and Levaquin, a new anti-infective launched in 1997.

Sales in its professional division, such as surgical instruments and contact lenses, grew by 4.5 percent to $8.4 billion in 1997.

Consumer division sales in 1997 were up 2.1 percent to $6.5 billion, an increase of 2.1 percent. Contributing to the rise were strong performances by products including Neutrogena, children's

Motrin pain reliever and Imodium advanced formula anti-diarrhea medicine.

Johnson & Johnson, with approximately 90,500 employees, has more than 180 operating companies in 51 countries, selling products in more than 175 countries, a company statement said.

At midday, the company's stock was trading at $67.94, up 19 cents, in consolidated trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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First Published: Thu, January 22 1998. 00:00 IST