Company news

February 23, 2011

It’s no secret Wall Street analysts take a dim view of Eli Lilly and Co.’s future profit potential. Only two out of 22 analysts recommend buying the Indianapolis-based company’s stock. And here’s why: Lilly ranks last among nine pharmaceutical companies in pipeline sales potential by the year 2015, according to an analysis by Dr. Tim Anderson, a pharmaceutical analyst at Bernstein Research. Anderson adds up the five-year sales forecasts for all drugs under development by the nine drugmakers. Pharmaceutical journalist Jim Edwards noted that such predictions are notoriously unreliable, but it’s the best investors have to go on for predicting the pharma future. At the top of Anderson’s ranking is Switzerland-based Novartis AG, estimated to generate $4.5 billion in sales from pipeline drugs by 2015. Lilly brings up the rear with $1 billion in projected sales. Smack in the middle of the list is New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., which is roughly equal in size to Lilly and is projected to pull in $3.2 billion from pipeline drugs.

CNO Financial Group Inc. boosted its operating profits 62 percent in the fourth quarter, besting analysts’ estimates by 2 cents per share. The Carmel-based life and health insurer on Tuesday said it earned $168.2 million in the final three months of last year, a big jump from the $18.2 million profit it posted in the same quarter the prior year. Most of the increase in the most recent quarter came from investment gains. Excluding those, as well as special accounting and debt charges, CNO had a quarterly operating profit of $51.7 million, or 18 cents per common share. On that same basis, Wall Street analysts were expecting the company to earn 16 cents per share, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters. A year ago, CNO’s operating profit was $32 million, or 15 cents per share. Revenue for the quarter rose nearly 2 percent to $1.08 billion. The main improvement came on policies that CNO still holds but is no longer actively selling. That division, called “Other CNO Business,” recorded a fourth-quarter profit of $6 million, compared with a nearly $30 million loss in the same quarter last year. That helped mask a drop in profit at CNO’s main Bankers Life unit, based in Chicago. It earned $71.4 million in the quarter, a fall of 16 percent.