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3 Things to Cheer About in Abbott's Earnings Report

Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) disappointed some investors after first-quarter revenue lagged behind analysts' estimates. The stock slipped 3.6% Tuesday following the news. Investors probably were hoping that Abbott's coronavirus diagnostics along with the strength of its star product -- the FreeStyle Libre continuous glucose monitoring system -- would offer revenue a bigger push.

But let's put the report into perspective. Abbott's revenue still rose more than 35% to $10.5 billion in the first quarter. And earnings per share beat analysts' estimates for the fourth consecutive quarter. That isn't all. There are three more elements in the earnings report that should give investors reason to cheer.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. The future of coronavirus testing

The future of coronavirus testing may be at home. And Abbott is set to lead in that area. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently granted the company Emergency Use Authorization for an at-home version of the BinaxNOW test. Abbott launched the BinaxNOW affordable and rapid test for professional use in August.

"We have to have scale to be able to meet the demand," CEO Robert B. Ford said during the earnings call. "And quite frankly, we're probably the leaders here in terms of production. We feel good about this opportunity."

Abbott plans on producing "tens of millions" of the self-tests per month and can make even more if needed. At $23.99 for a pack of two, the test is the cheapest on the market right now.

Abbott's coronavirus diagnostics revenue in the first quarter was $2.2 billion -- and rapid tests made up 85% of COVID testing sales.

2. Medical device recovery

While Abbott's coronavirus testing sales surged last year, the company's medical device unit suffered. Hospitals worldwide focused resources on coronavirus patients. And as a result, they postponed nonessential surgeries.

Abbott felt the impact. For the 2020 full year, revenue fell in six of the seven medical device categories. Only diabetes care posted sales gains, led by the FreeStyle Libre.

But Abbott had good news for us this week. In the first quarter, revenue climbed in all categories except heart failure. The coronavirus outbreak continued to cause delayed procedures early in the year. But Abbott said cardiovascular procedure volumes started to climb in March -- by mid-single digits compared to pre-COVID days.

This is key since the medical device business made up the biggest percentage of Abbott's total revenue prior to the pandemic. Medical device sales accounted for 38% of annual revenue in 2019.

3. Billion-dollar markets ahead

During the earnings call, Abbott's CEO spoke of major product launches next year in "multi-billion-dollar segments." One is the Amulet, a product cleared for use in international markets. Doctors use the Amulet on patients at risk for a stroke. The Amulet seals off a pouch in the heart where blood otherwise can pool and then form clots. Abbott filed for FDA clearance last year.

Ford also referred to a possible indication expansion for CardioMEMS, a wireless heart failure monitor. He said Abbott plans to make the request "relatively soon." Right now, the device is indicated for certain patients who have been hospitalized for heart failure in the previous year. Ford said a label expansion would "significantly broaden the U.S. market opportunity."

What does this mean for investors?

Abbott is growing revenue and earnings -- and that's a big positive.

Another big positive is the fact that Abbott is on track to meet its goal of 35% earnings-per-share growth for the full year 2021. The three elements I highlight above make the picture even brighter. And this means Abbott still is a great long-term stock for any healthcare portfolio.

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