updated 1/24/2006 9:24:28 AM ET 2006-01-24T14:24:28

Health care conglomerate Johnson & Johnson posted a 79 percent increase in fourth-quarter profit, mainly due to lower overhead costs and a large tax charge a year ago.

The maker of contraceptives, contact lenses, prescription drugs and baby and skin care products said Tuesday that net income totaled $2.2 billion, or 73 cents per share, for the three months ended Dec. 31 versus $1.2 billion, or 41 cents a share, a year ago.

The year-ago figures were depressed by a $789 million charge for repatriating foreign profits. It would have earned $2 billion, or 67 cents per share without that charge.

New Brunswick-based J&J said sales for the quarter dipped slightly, to $12.61 billion, from $12.75 billion a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting earnings per share of 73 cents and revenues of $13.2 billion.

The report was released as J&J faces a deadline of Tuesday night to raise its bid or let rival Boston Scientific Corp. acquire heart device maker Guidant Corp.

Natick, Mass.-based Boston Scientific is offering about $27.2 billion, or $80 per share, for Indianapolis-based Guidant, whose board last Tuesday declared that bid superior to J&J’s last offer: $24.2 billion, or $71 per share.

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