Merck 1Q Net Soars Amid Fewer Charges

Merck (NYSE:MRK) weighed in with first-quarter results on Friday that beat the Street as the drug giant benefited from cost cutting and strength in its diabetes and asthma drugs.

The Whitehouse Station, NJ-based blue-chip company said it earned $1.04 billion, or 34 cents a share, last quarter, compared with a profit of $299 million, or 9 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, it earned 92 cents a share, surpassing consensus calls for 84 cents.Merck, which is the No. 2 U.S. drug maker, said its sales grew 1.4% to $11.58 billion, exceeding forecasts for $11.37 billion.

“Our strong results were largely driven by double-digit growth of key products combined with deliberate cost control measures across all areas of the company as we continue to create a more effective and efficient operating model,” CEO Kenneth Frazier said in a statement.

A number of Merck’s key drugs reported sales increases, highlighted by a 14% jump in asthma drug Singulair’s sales to $1.33 billion and a 12% increase in sales of Remicade. Diabetes drug Januvia saw its revenue surge 45% to $739 million, while Vytorin’s sales inched up just 1% to $480 million.

Merck upped the midpoint of its full-year earnings guidance, saying it now sees EPS of $3.66 to $3.76. Wall Street had been calling for EPS of $3.69.

“It is clear that Merck's business momentum is building, and we continue to demonstrate the ongoing value of the merger,” Frazier said. “We're making progress in our robust late-stage pipeline, and leveraging the benefits of our expanded pharmaceutical and vaccine, animal health and consumer portfolio."

Shares of Merck gained 0.64% to $36.00 in Friday’s premarkets. The stock was off 1.1% year-to-date as of Thursday.