Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp) has reported an increase in profits and revenues last year, as well as uplifting fourth quarter results, but shares of the company’s stock were down on a conservative growth forecast.

For 2003, LabCorp’s profits jumped 26 percent, from $254.6 million in 2002 to $321 million this year. Full-year sales increased 17 percent to $2.9 billion. Diluted earnings per share were up from $1.77 to $2.22.

LabCorp, based in Burlington, NC, posted revenues for the fourth quarter of $731.5 million, an increase of 12.5 percent compared to the same period in 2002. Net fourth-quarter earnings climbed 46 percent, from $53 million to $77.6 million.

“I am delighted to report that we successfully accomplished all of our goals for 2003 and delivered another year of excellent financial performance,” said Thomas MacMahon, chairman and CEO of LabCorp. “Our solid financial results are only matched by the continued progress we have made in enhancing our scientific capabilities and expanding our geographic reach. While completing the successful integration of two large acquisitions and bringing new tests to market, LabCorp once again generated significant amounts of cash and strong growth in revenues, profitability and EPS.”

However, due to slower than expected sales growth of 5-7 percent for 2004, shares of LabCorp (NYSE: LH) dropped more than $4, or almost 10 percent, to just over $40 in midday trading. Volume is more than four times normal.