Skip to Content

Johnson & Johnson’s Slowdown Signals a Warning to Health Care Sector

Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest maker of health care products, predicted slower sales growth in 2019 despite beating analysts’ expectations to close last year. The company is the first major medical manufacturer to report earnings for the fourth quarter.

Fourth-quarter sales were $20.4 billion, and adjusted earnings per share were $1.97, J&J said in a statement. That topped the $20.2 billion in sales and $1.95 a share of earnings analysts had predicted.

Sales will grow slowly this year, J&J said, without detailing why. Overall revenue for the company’s drug, medical device, and consumer operations will rise 0% to 1% in 2019, a potential warning for other health care manufacturers. J&J is performing better abroad than in the United States.

The company’s pharmaceutical unit, which accounts for almost half of its revenue, saw 2.8% year-over-year growth in the U.S. and 13.7% growth internationally in the fourth-quarter, excluding the effect of currency exchange rates.

But J&J’s strong international growth was nearly wiped out by fluctuating exchange rates for currencies—a sign that the U.S.’s trade disputes may be having an impact. Currency fluctuations took 4.7 percentage points out of the company’s 5.1% international growth.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company’s shares (JNJ) fell less than 1% in early trading Tuesday. They’re down 11% in the last 12 months. For 2019, J&J predicts adjusted earnings per share of $8.50 to $8.65, compared with the $8.61 average of analysts’ estimates.