Merck ups outlook, turns profit during global vaccine hunt

Cover Image
Photo credit FILE- This May 1, 2018, file photo shows Merck corporate headquarters in Kenilworth, N.J. The pandemic increased sales of Merck medicines during the first quarter of 2020, as households around the world stocked up, but the drugmaker expects a significant hit this quarter as the full force of the outbreak lands. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
By The Associated Press

FAIRLESS HILLS, PA (AP) — Surging sales of its cancer medicines and reduced spending across the board helped Merck overcome a big hit from the coronavirus pandemic and increase its profit 12% in the second quarter.

The drugmaker boosted its financial forecast for the year Friday even as it spends heavily on the development of two experimental vaccines and a possible treatment for COVID-19. The results blew past analysts’ expectations, and the improved forecast helped drive up Merck shares early Friday.

Merck said the pandemic kept many people away from doctors and veterinarians, cutting into sales for nearly all medicines produced by the Kenilworth, New Jersey, company. Revenue fell 8%, to $10.87 billion, from $11.76 billion.

However, sales of immuno-oncology blockbuster Keytruda and other cancer drugs rose, partly due to approvals for new uses or patient groups.

The maker of Januvia diabetes pills posted net income of $3.0 billion, or $1.18 per share, up from $2.67 million, or $1.03 per share, a year earlier.

Adjusted for one-time items, income came to $3.48 billion, or $1.37 per share.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet were expecting adjusted earnings of $1.06 per share and sales of $10.4 billion.

Merck said it now expects revenue for all of 2020 to range from $47.2 billion to $48.7 billion, and adjusted earnings per share of $5.63 to $5.78. That’s up from its April forecast of $46.1 billion to $48.1 billion in revenue and earnings per share of $5.17 to $5.37.

In premarket trading, Merck shares rose $2.23, or 2.8%, to $81.30.