Johnson & Johnson Earnings Call Insights: Gross Margin, Pharma Performance

On Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) reported its third quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.

Gross Margin

Matthew Dodds – Citi: One quickly just for you Dominic then I’ll go to Pharma. When you look at the gross margin, it was flat year-over-year down a little bit quarter-over-quarter and you had a big performance in U.S. Pharma, so I was just wondering why we didn’t see a little more there?

Dominic J. Caruso – VP, Finance and CFO: So as Louise pointed out, Matt, the quarter includes this inventory step up from the acquisition of Synthes which we have excluded in our earnings, and so what you saw when you exclude for the quarter, I don’t know if you did that for the year-to-date basis, was that the slight uptick year-over-year of 20 basis points, I think, it was Louise, and that’s related to the continued remediation efforts in the Consumer business. So I don’t think that the gross margin excluding this impact from Synthes which will of course rotate off after all that inventory is sold. I don’t think that will be a big driver one way or the other to our earnings.

Catalysts are critical to discovering winning stocks. Check out our newest CHEAT SHEET stock picks now.

Matthew Dodds – Citi: That must have (been on that), I’ll look at that again. Joaquin, quickly for you, can you give some comment on what you’re seeing in Western Europe. You talked a lot about emerging markets, Japan and you showed EMEA. What are you seeing in Western Europe in terms of the volumes today and where you might be seeing some pressure?

Joaquin Duato – Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals: Matt as I described in Western Europe, we are having a very positive evolution in the first half of the year. We had double-digit growth and we are leading the industry in growth and it’s based on the strength of our launched new products in particular in INCIVO, ZYTIGA and XEPLION which is the name that INVEGA, SUSTENNA has outside of the U.S. Having said that, we continue to see headwinds in most of the European countries, in particularly, Southern Europe, but also in Central Europe. The headwinds are in different areas, we see continued pressure on price on one side and at the same time we see stricter guidelines in the use of genetics too, and also we see in many different countries HDA agencies coming up, which I think will make access more complex and difficult. Overall, a complex situation (ready fluid) and our view is that we have to take a long-term view in that, we are pleased with our results to-date and we are confident that our portfolio is the right one for this market environment.

Pharma Performance

Michael Weinstein – JPMorgan: Maybe Dominic missed over the big question for the performance as well. Dominic, if we look at it from a topline perspective the 5% organic growth this quarter is your best quarter in five years, could you just give us your give picture thoughts on sustainability at J&J side, it’s been a difficult period kind of going back to Risperdal and (Supermax) and some of the challenges that – those 708, so it’s been a long time coming. Can you just talk about your thoughts on now that you are back at this 5% level, whether this is reasonable or sustainable range for the Company?

Dominic J. Caruso – VP, Finance and CFO: You are right, we’ve been through some tough times which of course some of those are expected because of patent expirations and the like, but nonetheless I think the focus that we had during those times to continue to invest particularly on the Pharmaceutical pipeline has paid off for us. So if you look at the three businesses in particular, Pharma, of course, is now at as Joaquin said, 10 quarters of growth and accelerating that growth and we’re excited about the way the products are performing in the marketplace and as Paul mentioned, we have new products coming that we’re also very excited about. MD&D, of course, is challenged by the lower procedure volumes that continue. But offsetting that of course we now have Synthes as a member of the Johnson & Johnson family of companies and having a large presence in orthopedics which we think will be in fact a growth area within Medical Devices given demographics and emerging market trends. So, that should help us continue growth in that business along with new product innovations throughout all of MD&D. Our Consumer business is holding up well in a tough consumer environment generally. But of course, we’re looking forward to return of the OTC products and we know we are delayed in that return. We want to do this right. But of course, we see those returning over the near-term horizon in ’13. So, all in all, I think the business is on sound footing, Mike. I think the investments we made were the appropriate ones that paying off and the execution of the talented people of Johnson & Johnson is paying off. So, feel pretty good about where the business is right now and obviously I can’t give you a forecast or guidance for next year. We’ll talk to you about that in January. But overall, I feel pretty good that we’re on solid footing here.

Michael Weinstein – JPMorgan: Let me switch to Pharma. Paul, can you just cover two items for me? One is, the Street has been a bit cautious on canagliflozin given the challenges in diabetes in giving products not only through the FDA but having successful commercial launches post approval. Can you just talk about your confidence in a safety profile in a degree to which you’ve had discussions with the FDA on that? Then second, can you talk about in hep C your strategy for an all oral regimen and where you think you take 435 from here?

Paul Stoffels – Chief Scientific Officer and Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals: The first, we’re pretty confident in canagliflozin. First the basics; if you look at the cancer, there was no evidence of any clinical meaningful imbalance in the incidence of cancer including breast and bladder in clinical trials with canagliflozin. So, I think we are pretty confident from that side that we have a safe compound. The urinary tract infections, if you look at our studies then there was also in the (proof) analysis, the incidence of UTI was for placebo 400 milligram 5.9, for 300 milligram 4.3, no real dose related increase and it’s known for this type of compound and typically these products are well managed with OTC mitigation. So, from a long-term safety perspective, as you know, we are doing the CANVAS study with a first part of the data which went to the FDA. We’ll have a second interim analysis in 2013 and then later on when the study finished, it’s an event-driven trial, so we’ll see when the study will be finished. But we are pretty confident that in those data the support is there for a filing and an approval. The data show – we think the data show solid cardiovascular safety and the balance between the LDL increase. If you look at the overall ratios, LDL, HDL, they were absolutely okay. If you look at then combine that with blood pressure decrease, the reduction in triglycerides, the weight loss and improved glycemic control, we think that the balance between efficacy and safety is very solid for canagliflozin. On 435, with 435 we have a best-in-class protease inhibitor, which we’ll submit in the first half of next year. Drugs are developed one by one, so the first indication will be in the combination with interferon and ribavirin. We are doing additional early studies on testing the combination with 7977 Gilead (indiscernible) with the NS5a from BMS. In addition to that we have our internal drugs which we are developing for our combination. I think it’s now absolute clear that it’s going to go to interferon for your regimens. The task will be combining say when effective drugs to get us to make sure that we have the efficacy and safety. As I said drugs will be developed one-by-one. You have to show the efficacy and safety of each of the drugs. We’ll participate significantly in that field.

A Closer Look: Johnson & Johnson Earnings Cheat Sheet>>