This excerpt taken from the BMY 8-K filed Jun 16, 2005.
Earnings Guidance and Estimates
The management of many public companies, including BMS, provided guidance to the investing public regarding the expected performance of the business, including EPS, for upcoming quarters and years. In 2000 and at least until December 13, 2001, BMS advised the investing public through its guidance that it expected performance consistent with the Double-Double and Mega-Double.
Relying in part on a companys guidance, professional securities analysts then made public their own estimates of the companys expected performance. These earnings estimates or analyst expectationswhich when averaged were referred to as the consensus estimateswere closely followed by investors.
By 2000, BMS had met or exceeded analysts consensus estimates for at least twenty-four (24) straight quarters, and this consistency was part of the companys public image. BMS understood that its failure to meet or exceed the consensus estimates for a quarter likely would result in a decrease in the companys stock price.