Could a restructuring help protect AbbVie when revenue troubles hit?

It's no secret that AbbVie's ($ABBV) sales are in for a shock once generic competition starts eating away at behemoth Humira. But worry not, investors: The company will be able to shield its EPS from the hit when the time comes, one analyst believes.

According to ISI Evercore's Mark Schoenebaum, the Illinois pharma "has the ability to protect EPS to a far larger ability than the Street currently understands," he wrote in a Tuesday note to investors.

Does that mean another Big Pharma slim-down is imminent? Not necessarily, Schoenebaum said. "I am NOT making the call that the company should (or would) immediately restructure," he wrote. But he does hope AbbVie "will acknowledge that it, in theory, has such cost flexibility should the revenue situation underperform their expectations over the next decade."

If AbbVie did decide to shed some pieces, it would hardly be alone in its thinking. More than a few of its Big Pharma peers--including Pfizer ($PFE), Novartis ($NVS) and Merck ($MRK)--have recently hived off non-core assets to focus on what they do well and boost financial performance. AbbVie itself is the product of a divestment: One-time parent Abbott Labs ($ABT) spun the drugmaker off in early 2013.

Lately, though, AbbVie has been all about bulking up to ease the revenue blow when it comes. After nixing last year's Shire ($SHPG) tie-up on tax reasons, it recently agreed to fork over $21 billion to gain access to Pharmacyclics' ($PCYC) Imbruvica, a drug it said would bring it $7 billion in peak sales.

Still, though, $11 billion seller Humira--which brings in the vast majority of AbbVie's top-line haul--will leave big shoes to fill. The med already has biosimilar competition in India, and with its U.S. patent protection set to expire in 2016, some industry-watchers think its business could start suffering sooner rather than later.

"At year 3, biosimilars will achieve 36% U.S. market share in Humira patients and 25% in established Humira patients," Citi's Andrew Baum wrote in February, predicting Humira revenues would decline from a peak $16 billion in 2017 to just $6 billion in 2022.

Special Report: The 10 best-selling drugs of 2013 - Humira

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