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J&J raises profit forecast as trial halt weighs

(Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson JNJ.N raised its annual profit forecast for the second time this year in quarterly results on Tuesday, a day after it was the second major drug company to call a temporary halt to trials of its experimental coronavirus vaccine.

FILE PHOTO: The Johnson & Johnson logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

With shares in the company falling on investor worries about the fate of the vaccine, finance chief Joseph Wolk said it was unclear how long the suspension in the trials, due to an unexplained illness of one participant, would last.

“It could be as small as a few days but it’s hard to predict until they get the information they need,” he told CNBC.

The company will let an independent data and safety board go through its protocols as it reviewed the illness, he said.

Johnson & Johnson is the first major U.S. drugmaker and medical device manufacturer to report third-quarter results and its earnings could set the tone for upcoming rival’s earnings.

In the third quarter, sales rose to $21.08 billion from $20.73 billion, helped by strength in the company’s largest unit, pharmaceuticals.

Sales of cancer drug Darzalex rose 43.7% to $1.10 billion.

Sales of Imbruvica, which J&J jointly owns with AbbVie Inc ABBV.N, as well as Crohn's disease drug Stelara, grew in the double-digits, bringing in $1.03 billion and $1.95 billion respectively.

Its medical device unit’s sales fell 3.6% to $6.15 billion, as patients and hospitals continued to delay non-urgent surgeries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company now expects full-year 2020 adjusted profit of $7.95 to $8.05 per share, from its prior range of $7.75 to $7.95 per share.

On an adjusted basis, the company earned $2.20 per share, beating analysts’ estimates of $1.98 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

J&J’s shares fell 1.7% to $149.25 before the bell.

Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Patrick Graham

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