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Merck beats earnings forecasts


Drug firm Merck beat analysts’ forecasts when it posted a fourth-quarter profit following a loss one year ago when it incurred a hefty charge.

The $1.64 billion (£1.15 billion) profit for the maker of vaccines, cholesterol drugs and asthma treatment Singulair came despite falling sales among its key products. The profit equalled 78 cents (54 pence) a share.

Merck paid out $4.85 billion (£3.37 billion) in settlement charges last year to end most of the lawsuits from patients for its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx.

This charge hit profits, as the drugmaker last year made a loss of $1.63 billion (£1.14 billion) or 75 cents (52 pence) a share.

The pharmaceutical firm also had charges of $204 million (£142.4 million) to meet restructuring. When these were stripped out, the world’s eighth largest drugmaker saw reported earnings per share of 87 cents (60 pence).

Revenue in the fourth quarter fell 3% to $6 billion (£4.19 billion).

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting, on average, earnings per share of 74 cents (52 pence) and revenue of $5.98 billion (£4.17 billion).

Sales of osteoporosis treatment Fosamax plunged due to generic competition, and revenue from Merck’s partnership with Schering-Plough for cholesterol drugs also fell.

Drugs Vytorin and Zetia (Ezetimibe) have been hurt by reports in the past year questioning their effectiveness and safety, and their combined global revenue fell 26% from the same period last year, to $1.1 billion (£767 million).

Copyright Press Association 2009


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