updated 1/22/2007 9:27:58 AM ET 2007-01-22T14:27:58

Pfizer Inc., the world’s biggest drugmaker, reported Monday a sharply higher fourth-quarter profit, helped by a hefty gain from the sale of its consumer health care unit.

Adjusting for the sale and other items in both periods, Pfizer’s earnings fell 15 percent on flat sales, which were stung by the loss of patent protection on blockbuster antidepressant Zoloft.

Its latest results still beat analysts’ forecasts, however, and its shares rose 8 cents to $27.30 in premarket trading.

Later Monday, Pfizer planned to announce a major restructuring, expected to include major job cuts, as the company struggles with flat revenue caused by patent expirations on key drugs.

For the fourth quarter, net income soared to $9.45 billion, or $1.32 per share, for the last three months of 2006 from $2.73 billion, or 37 cents per share, a year ago.

The results reflected Pfizer’s $16.6 billion sale of its consumer health care business to health care products maker Johnson & Johnson last month. The sale resulted in a gain after taxes of $7.9 billion.

Excluding the gain, earnings totaled $3.05 billion, or 43 cents per share, down from an adjusted $3.59 billion, or 49 cents a share, a year ago. The earnings beat by a penny a share the consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Revenue were essentially flat at $12.60 billion compared with $12.55 billion a year ago. Analysts expected sales of $12.62 billion.

Zoloft sales sank 79 percent to $166 million overall from $808 million a year earlier. In the United states, Zoloft sales plunged 88 percent to $76 million from $653 million a year earlier.

For the year, Pfizer earned $19.34 billion, or $2.66 a share, up from $8.09 billion, or $1.09 a share, in 2005. Revenue rose to $48.37 billion, up from $47.41 billion a year earlier, driven by strong U.S. sales of cholesterol-lowering treatment Lipitor, pain reliever Celebrex and blood pressure pill Norvasc.

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