Mead Johnson Nutrition has lifted its forecast for underlying earnings in 2012 after sales and profits increased in the first quarter of the year.

The US infant formula said yesterday (26 April) it expects its non-GAAP earnings per share to be US$3.04-3.14 in 2012. In February, it estimated EPS would be $3.00-3.10 this year.

The company also issued a new forecast for its sales growth in 2012. It said it expects annual constant dollar sales to rise 9-11% thanks to its new venture in Argentina and “higher growth expectations” in emerging markets.

Mead Johnson’s new targets gave a boost to its shares, which finished 4.17% higher at $86.53 on the New York stock exchange yesterday.

The revised forecasts came after Mead Johnson’s sales and profits increased in the first three months of the year. The company’s net earnings were up 14% at $169.8m after a 11.8% increase in EBIT to $248.8m.

Net sales rose 9.6% to $986.6m after a 22% increase in sales from its Asia and Latin America division. Sales from its North America and Europe unit slid 12% amid lower volumes in the US. Mead Johnson said “unfounded media reports” that some of its products were contaminated hit sales and it also pointed to lower consumption and fewer births.

CEO Stephen Golsby said the company was “very pleased” with its results. “Our overall performance is particularly striking in light of the headwinds in the United States from factors outside of our control,” Golsby said.

He added: “We have confidence in the recovery of our US market share as we move through the second half of the year.”

Click here for the full earnings statement from Mead Johnson.