AbbVie to ring in 2013 as an independent drugmaker

AbbVie has its final stamp of approval. Abbott Laboratories' ($ABT) directors endorsed the pharma unit's spinoff Wednesday, allowing AbbVie to ring in the new year as an independent company.

Abbott shareholders will receive one share of AbbVie's common stock for each Abbott share they own. AbbVie's shares will hit New Year's Day, with trading expected to begin on the New York Stock Exchange when markets reopen Jan. 2. Ticker symbol: ABBV.

Abbott won't issue fractional shares; those will be handled with cash payments. The share-for-share dividend will be tax-free, per an Internal Revenue Service ruling. The cash may, however, be taxable, Abbott said in a statement

So, AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez will begin 2013 with a new title, but substantially the same mission: Keep Humira on its megablockbuster track long enough to allow pipeline drugs to make their debuts. The anti-inflammatory drug is expected to bring in nearly $9 billion this year, despite a slight slowdown in quarter-over-quarter growth for Q3.

The question is whether Humira's continuing advance will be slowed by Pfizer's ($PFE) newly approved Xeljanz. So far, analysts think Humira can weather the competition; RBC Capital Markets' Glenn Novarro, for instance, has said he's sticking to his $10 billion sales forecast for Humira next year. Overall, AbbVie is expected to rack up $18 billion-plus in 2013 sales.

Abbott raised $14.7 billion for the AbbVie spinoff in a record-setting bond issue earlier this month. Once it's independent, some of AbbVie's cash will flow toward a promised $1.6 billion dividend--and, of course, the ongoing R&D work so crucial to its long-term future.

- read the announcement from Abbott
- see the Chicago Tribune story