* EPS $0.47 shr., excl. items, vs. $0.41 forecast
* Favorable taxes drive earnings beat
* Bristol, Lilly reach deal on ImClone lung cancer drug
* Bristol, AstraZeneca file for Onglyza/metformin pill (Adds details on earnings, sales)
By Ransdell Pierson
NEW YORK, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Bristol-Myers Squibb BMY.N reported stronger-than-expected fourth quarter earnings, helped by sharply lower taxes and cost cuts, and forecast 2010 earnings in line with Wall Street expectations.
The company said it had settled a long-simmering dispute with Eli Lilly and Co LLY.N, under which the rival U.S. drugmakers will co-develop a promising experimental lung-cancer drug which Lilly acquired through its purchase in late 2008 of biotechnology company ImClone Systems.
Bristol-Myers reported fourth-quarter net income of $8.03 billion, or $4.06 per share, including a $7.2 billion after-tax gain from the split-off of its Mead Johnson nutritionals business late last year. In the year-ago period, Bristol-Myers earned $1.24 billion, or 63 cents per share.
Excluding special items, Bristol-Myers earned 47 cents per share. Analysts on average expected 41 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The earnings beat was largely due to a favorable tax rate, an ongoing cost-savings program and sales growth, the company said..
Global company sales from continuing operations rose 11 percent to $5.03 billion, but would have risen only 7 percent if not for the weaker dollar. Thomson Reuters expected sales of $4.99 billion, excluding Mead Johnson operations.
Sales of blood-clot preventer Plavix rose 10 percent to $1.62 billion. Bristol-Myers,, which co-markets the pill with Sanofi-Aventis SASY.PA, is racing to cut costs and acquire new products before its top-selling product faces U.S. generic competition in 2012.
Global sales of Abilify, used to treat schizophrenia and depression, continued to spearhead company earnings growth, with sales jumping 17 percent to $707 million.
But Erbitux sales fell 8 percent to $167 million, hurt by competition from newer colon cancer treatments.
Bristol-Myers, which held a stake in ImClone and helped develop its Erbitux, has contended it also shared rights to ImClone’s lung cancer medicine -- called necitumumab (IMC-11F8) -- after Lilly purchased ImClone. The drug is now in late-stage trials.
Under their new agreement, Bristol-Myers and Lilly together will develop and co-market necitumumab in the U.S., Canada and Japan, should it be approved, Bristol-Myers said.
Lilly will retain rights in all other countries to the drug, which Cowen and Co has said could garner sales of $300 million in 2015.
Bristol-Myers forecast full-year earnings of $2.15 to $2.25 per share, excluding items, reflecting growth of about 16 to 22 percent. Wall Street is expecting $2.19 per share. (Reporting by Ransdell Pierson, editing by Dave Zimmerman)