updated 1/25/2006 8:54:29 AM ET 2006-01-25T13:54:29

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. said Wednesday its fourth-quarter earnings more than tripled from a year ago despite falling sales because the drugmaker’s year-ago net income was depressed by a one-time charge.

For the last three months of the year, Bristol-Myers said it earned $499 million, or 26 cents a share, compared to $139 million, or 7 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2004. Bristol took a $575 million charge to repatriate foreign earnings in the fourth quarter of 2004.

After charges, Bristol-Myers earned 31 cents a share in the latest quarter, beating the consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial of 28 cents a share.

Net sales fell 1 percent to $5.02 billion from $5.16 billion as New York-based Bristol-Myers continues to struggle with patent losses on key drugs. However, during the quarter sales of blood thinner Plavix, the company’s best selling product, rose 11 percent to $1.1 billion from $959 million while AIDS drug Reyataz revenue jumped 27 percent to $188 million.

Bristol-Myers said it expects to earn between $1.15 a share and $1.25 a share this year, encompassing the $1.24 a share expected by analysts.

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