(By Balaseshan) Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) posted quarterly earnings that topped market expectations, spurred by improvement in margins as well as lower costs and expenses. Further, the company narrowed its full year earnings forecast.
On a non-GAAP basis, earnings per share (EPS) increased 1.1 percent to $0.95, beating Wall Street view of $0.92 a share. GAAP EPS rose 1.8 percent to 56 cents.
Sales declined 4.4 percent to $11.49 billion, missing analysts' expectations of $11.57 billion. Excluding the unfavorable impact of foreign exchange, sales were comparable with the third quarter of 2011.
Strong revenue growth of key products offset the negative impact of the August 2012 loss of market exclusivity for anti-asthma attacks drug Singulair (montelukast sodium) in the United States.
Gross margin improved to 64.0 percent from 63.8 percent in the third quarter of the previous year, reflecting 11.2 and 11.5 percentage point unfavorable impacts, respectively, from the acquisition-related costs and restructuring costs.
Sales of diabetes drug Januvia soared 15 percent. Sales of Gardasil, Merck's human papillomavirus vaccine, jumped 31 percent. Sales of Janumet, and Isentress also grew in double digits.
Meanwhile, sales of Singulair, an oral medicine for the chronic treatment of asthma and the relief of symptoms of allergic rhinitis, plunged 55 percent as the patent expired in the United States on Aug. 3 and will expire in major European markets in February 2013. The company is experiencing a significant and rapid reduction in sales in the United States and expects a similar decline in Europe following patent expiry there.
Sales of Merck's antihypertensive medicines Cozaar and Hyzaar were down 27 percent due to the loss of market exclusivity in the United States and major European markets in 2010.
Looking ahead for the full year, Merck narrowed its non-GAAP EPS guidance to range of $3.78 to $3.82 from previous estimate of $3.75 to $3.85. Merck continues to expect full-year 2012 revenues to be at or near 2011 levels on a constant currency basis. Analysts expect EPS of $3.81 on revenue of $47.14 billion.
At current exchange rates, sales would be affected unfavorably by about 1 percent for the fourth quarter and more than 2 percent for the full year.
In addition, the company expects full-year 2012 non-GAAP R&D expenses to be higher than the 2011 level. The company continues to expect non-GAAP tax rate to be about 25 percent.
The stock, which has been trading between $33.08 and $48 over the past year, ended Thursday's regular trading up 0.92 percent at $46.30.