Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY) Wednesday said fourth-quarter profits rose as a lower tax rate helped offset lower sales of prescription drugs.

The New York-based drugmaker said it earned $499 million, or 26 cents per share. That compared with $139 million, or 7 cents a share in the 2004 quarter, when it took a charge for taxes on overseas profits returned to the United States.

Excluding special items, Bristol-Myers earned 31 cents per share. Analysts, on average, expected 28 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

The company said it expects full-year 2006 earnings of $1.15 to $1.25 per share, excluding special items.

Shares of Bristol-Myers fell 10.3 percent in 2005, compared with a 1 percent rise for the American Stock Exchange Pharmaceutical Index which tracks large U.S. and European drugmakers.

Investors have shunned the stock due to lower sales of Bristol's cholesterol fighter Pravachol and plunging sales of medicines facing generic competition.