Merck easily beats market expectations

 
Lauren Fedor
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US DRUG firm Merck reported better than expected quarterly earnings and sales yesterday.

Merck said it earned $953m (£622m), or 33 cents per share, in the first quarter, compared with $1.71bn, or 57 cents per share, in the same period last year.

Excluding certain “special items” products, Merck earned 85 cents per share, well above the analyst consensus of 75 cents per share, according to Reuters.

The pharmaceutical giant said its performance was boosted by sales of its Januvia diabetes drug and its animal health products. Januvia sales rose 3 per cent in the quarter, to $884m. Sales of Merck’s animal health products rose 2 per cent to $829m, but the company said sales would have spiked 13 per cent if not for the stronger dollar.

The second-largest US pharma company’s sales were hurt by the sale of its consumer health business and a strong dollar hampering competitiveness.

Merck said the sale of its consumer business to Bayer healthcare cut sales by eight per cent, while unfavourable currency-exchange rates pulled total sales down by eight per cent.

Merck’s prescription drug sales increased in the US by 16 per cent in the first quarter, but fell sharply in Europe and Japan.

But despite posting overall strong results for the first quarter, Merck only slightly raised its earnings forecast for this year, to between $3.35 and $3.48 per share, excluding special items. It had previously forecast earnings of $3.32 to $3.47 per share.

Sanford Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson nevertheless said the company reported a “solid Q1 with raised guidance”. Anderson also pointed out that among large US drugmakers only Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb had raised their 2015 forecasts.

The two companies are leaders in immuno-oncology medicines that work with the immune system to fight cancer.

Merck’s shares closed up five per cent per cent at $59.98.