Merck profit beats estimates on resilient Keytruda demand

(Reuters) – Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) on Friday posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit and raised its full-year earnings forecast on resilient demand for its blockbuster cancer therapy Keytruda during the COVID-19 pandemic, sending its shares up 3%.

Sales of Keytruda, Merck’s key growth driver, rose nearly 29% to $3.39 billion, beating the average estimate of $3.13 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

However, Merck said sales of its vaccines and other treatments were hurt as patients avoided doctors’ offices due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a $1.6 billion hit to its second-quarter sales.

The company also forecast a $1.95 billion hit to 2020 revenue from the pandemic.

Merck said it now expects full year adjusted profit of between $5.63 to $5.78 per share, compared with its prior forecast of between $5.17 and $5.37 per share.

Net income attributable to shareholders rose to $3 billion, or $1.18 per share, in the quarter, from $2.67 billion, or $1.03 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, Merck earned $1.37 per share, beating estimates of $1.04, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

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