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Cardiac devices, diabetes care help drive Abbott's Q3 growth

Abbott Laboratories reported organic sales growth of 7.8% for the company's third quarter, continuing a trend of growth above 7% for the fourth straight quarter.

Chairman and CEO Miles White attributed the third-quarter growth to a balanced performance across all four of the company's businesses during a third-quarter earnings call held Oct. 17. But Abbott's medical devices group stood out with the strongest performance in the third quarter, where sales grew 10%. Abbott has nevertheless narrowed its EPS guidance for 2018 to between $2.87 and $2.89 from the previous range of $2.85 to $2.91.

Joshua Jennings and Harris Iqbal, Cowen Group analysts, noted the four-quarter trend in an Oct. 17 report and said Abbott's organic sales growth "soundly beat" the consensus projection of 6.8%.

The sales growth for medical devices was fueled by 20% growth in electrophysiology devices like cardiac monitors and 40% growth in sales for diabetes devices such as glucose monitoring systems. Abbott's FreeStyle Libre product, a continuous glucose monitoring system, pulled in $300 million in sales in Q3, an increase of 100% over last year, according to Abbott.

White is also confident about the future of the company's heart valve device MitraClip, which saw sales growth of over 20% in the third quarter. White cited a new study that found the device can be a positive, noninvasive option for patients with heart failure who are unable to go through open-heart surgery. The study, which was published in September in The New England Journal of Medicine, showed that patients who used the device had a 32% lower rate of hospitalization than those who did not use the device, and patients had a 15% lower rate of death from any cause than the control group who did not use the device.

"Our objective will be to move through the regulatory processes as rapidly as can be done, and make it available for that use as rapidly as we can," White said of the next steps for MitraClip. "I think the medical community sees tremendous medical benefit in that. And when you can make that kind of a difference, it's obviously a ... good thing."

White said the company will be submitting the study to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the next few weeks and will seek an expanded indication for the product as well.

'The only elephant in the room'

Abbott CFO Brian Yoor said currency exchange had a negative year-over-year impact of 2.7% on third-quarter sales, and the company is expecting to have a 3% to 4% negative impact on reported sales in the fourth quarter.

White reaffirmed the negative impact and stressed that future changes to exchange rates are difficult to predict, either positively or negatively. However, he seemed confident they could be offset.

"If you ask me, do I think there will be up or down? I have no idea," White said. "Right now, I think that's kind of the only elephant in the room for us, and everything else looks positive and strong or is in our hands to manage."