Abbott CEO says diversification delivers

Miles White (photo) has been CEO of Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) for 12 years, longer than any other current Big Pharma chief. And over those 12 years, he's done well by investors; the stock is up from $34 to around $50. How did he do it, and how does he plan to keep the momentum going, now that excelling at pharma is tougher than ever?

Investors Business Daily asked White, and the answers boiled down to diversification. Deep into businesses besides prescription drugs--e.g. devices and diagnostics--Abbott has been able to grow long-term while satisfying Wall Street's hunger for quarterly numbers, too, White says. And it was this diversity of businesses--not to mention geographic diversity--that's helped Abbott weather the recession.

Many drugmakers are now diversifying to hedge against loss of prescription-drug sales. Think Novartis buying Alcon, Pfizer pumping up its generics unit, Sanofi-Aventis nabbing Chattem to get access to the U.S. consumer health market.

Ironically, the investment world wasn't so sure about Abbott's diversification strategy, White says. "When I became CEO, a lot of analysts challenged us on breaking up the company and becoming pure pharma," White tells IBD. "There was a lot of investment bank pressure to become pure pharma." 

- read the IBD interview