Merck’s first-quarter profit beats on Keytruda boost

April 30, 2019

(Reuters) – Merck & Co Inc reported a higher-than-expected first-quarter profit on Tuesday and raised its earnings and sales forecasts for the year, thanks to surging sales of its blockbuster cancer immunotherapy Keytruda.

Merck’s shares rose 2 percent after the company said it now expects full-year adjusted earnings per share of $4.67 – $4.79, up from its prior forecast of $4.57 to $4.72.

Keytruda has driven much of Merck’s recent growth as it maintains its lead as an initial treatment for advanced lung cancer, the most lucrative oncology market. Following positive data, the drug is also expected to become the standard-of-care for some advanced kidney cancer patients.

Sales of the drug rose 55 percent to $2.27 billion.

Excluding items, Merck earned $1.22 per share, beating the analysts’ average expectation of $1.06 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Merck said net income rose to $2.92 billion, or $1.12 per share, in the first quarter from $736 million, or 27 cents per share, a year earlier.

The company had taken a $1.4 billion charge in the comparable quarter related to a collaboration with Japan’s Eisai Co Ltd.

Sales rose to $10.81 billion, beating analysts’ average estimate of $10.48 billion.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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