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Johnson & Johnson beats forecast, 2012 view lags

Johnson & Johnson reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings but took big charges for product recalls, and the diversified health care company forecast 2012 earnings below analysts' estimates amid continuing weak U.S. sales and the negative impact of the stronger dollar.

J&J on Tuesday said it earned $218-million (U.S.), or 8 cents per share, in the fourth quarter. That compares with $1.9-billion, or 70 cents per share, a year earlier, when J&J took charges related to recalls of its hip-replacement devices.

Excluding after-tax charges of $2.9-billion, J&J earned $1.13 per share. Analysts, on average, expected $1.09, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

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The company forecast 2012 earnings of $5.05 to $5.15 per share, a bit below the consensus Wall Street view of $5.21.

"Results were pretty much in line, with some pretty big charges, but the forecast is a little weak for 2012," said Morningstar analyst Damien Conover.

J&J spokesman William Price said most analysts had not yet factored the negative impact of the stronger dollar into their forecasts.

"Adjusting their estimates for the currency impact, 2012 guidance is in line with the analyst expectations," Mr. Price said.

J&J said its global sales rose 3.9 per cent in the fourth quarter to $16.26-billion, slightly below an average Wall Street forecast of $16.27-billion. But U.S. sales of its medical devices and prescription drugs slumped, as they did in the prior quarter.

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