Abbott's COVID test sales in spotlight as Omicron fuels demand

By Amruta Khandekar and Leroy Leo Jan 25 (Reuters) — Abbott Laboratories is likely to report a surge in fourth-quarter sales of COVID-19 test kits as makers of rapid tests benefited from supercharged demand due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant, even as they wrestled supply snarls.

Earlier this month, Abbott said it has the capacity to support the heightened demand, which is likely to stay strong in the near term. The company will report results on Wednesday before markets open. Test makers have grappled with choppy demand in the past few quarters as COVID-19 infections have surged and plateaued in the United States, making it difficult to predict whether demand will hold up for the long term.

Despite the early gains, Abbott, which has been scaling up production capacity for rapid tests such as its BinaxNOW, may hold back on providing COVID-19 test sales estimates beyond the first quarter or the first half of 2022, analysts said. «That may seem inadequate… but if you see the experience they (Abbott) had throughout 2020 and early 2021, it is very hard to predict demand for these tests. I mean, right now they’re very strong but in six months, they could slow back down again,» said Credit Suisse analyst Matt Miksic.

Abbott is also expected to benefit this year from a supply contract website with the U.S. government, as the country makes free rapid tests available to its people in its battle against the crisis. Click here for an interactive graphic : website THE CONTEXT ** U.S.

testing demand has shot up in recent months with Quest Diagnostics, one of the largest U.S. commercial laboratory companies, performing nearly double the number of COVID-19 tests compared to the third quarter of last year. ** The Biden administration, which has come under criticism for not focusing on testing sooner, has pledged to procure 1 billion free rapid tests for Americans as a part of its effort to stem the Omicron spread.

Click here for an interactive graphic : website THE FUNDAMENTALS ** Abbott is expected to report fourth-quarter revenue of $10.71 billion on Jan. 26, according to the mean estimate from 16 analysts based on Refinitiv data. ** Abbott reported total third-quarter sales of $10.9 billion. COVID-19 test sales brought in $1.9 billion in sales.

** Abbott has forecast fourth-quarter COVID-19 test sales between $1 billion and $1.4 billion. WALL STREET SENTIMENT ** The current average analyst rating on Abbott shares is «buy», with six analysts rating it «strong buy», 13 «buy» four «hold» and one «sell».

** Wall Street’s median 12-month price target is $145.50. ** The company’s shares have risen about 29% in 2021. QUARTER ENDING EPS ESTIMATE ACTUAL EPS BEAT, MET, PTS Terbaik ASEAN ($) ($) MISSED Sept. 30. 2021 $0.95 $1.40 BEAT June 30. 2021 $1.02 $1.17 BEAT March 31. 2021 $1.27 $1.32 BEAT Dec.

31. 2020 $1.35 $1.45 BEAT Sept. 30. 2020 $0.91 $0.98 BEAT June 30. 2020 $0.42 $0.57 BEAT (Reporting by Amruta Khandekar and Leroy Leo; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)