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Lilly reports $942 million profit in third quarter

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Eli Lilly and Co. swung to a profit in its third quarter, the Indianapolis-based company reported this morning.

The company earned nearly $942 million, or 86 cents per share, compared with a loss of $466 million, or 43 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

The year-ago loss resulted from Lilly's acquisition of New York-based ImClone Systems Inc. Assuming Lilly had owned ImClone for all of 2008, and excluding other extraordinary charges this year, the company would have earned $1.20 per share, an increase of 22 percent over the same quarter a year ago. On that basis, Wall Street analysts were expecting Lilly to earn $1.02 per share.

"Our performance in the third quarter once again was driven by volume-based sales growth, improving gross margins and tight control of operating expenses, allowing us to deliver very attractive earnings growth," said Lilly CEO John Lechleieter in a statement.

Lilly's revenue rose 7 percent in the quarter over the same period of 2008, to $5.56 billion.

Lilly's strongest drug was Alimta, which treats various stages of non-small cell lung cancer. Its sales grew 47 percent compared with the third quarter last year. The antidepressant Cymbalta and the insulin Humalog also posted double-digits sales growth in the third quarter.

Lilly recorded a charge of 23 cents per share because it agreed last week to sell its Tippecanoe Laboratories plant in Lafayette to a German firm. That charge, before taxes, consisted of a $355 million accounting charge and $38 million in cash that Lilly will pay out to its 700 employees at Tippecanoe as severance.

The company also took a charge to abandon two phase-3 products designed to treat osteoporosis and multiple sclerosis.

So far this year, Lilly has earned $2.31 per share, excluding a charge of 6 cents per share to settle lawsuits brought by various states alleging illegal marketing of Lilly's bestseller, Zyprexa.

The company has not been issuing quarterly profit forecasts. But, in July, it predicted it would earn $4.20 to $4.30 per share for the entire year.

Lilly's stock in the last month has jumped nearly 9 percent. But, for the year, its shares are still down 12.5 percent.

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