Merck Misses Estimates in 4Q; Plans Increased Focus on Cancer


Merck (NYSE:MRK) reported a worse-than-expected 14% decline in fourth-quarter profit on Wednesday but confirmed plans to increase its focus on investigational cancer treatments.

The No. 2 largest U.S. drug maker said it entered three separate collaboration agreements with competitors Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) and Incyte to evaluate its experimental MK-3475 immunotherapy cancer treatment.

For the full year, Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck predicts non-GAAP earnings in the range of $3.35 and $3.53 a share on sales between $42.4 billion and $43.2 billion. Analysts on average are calling for in-line earnings of $3.48 on sales of $43.35 billion.

“In 2013 we took decisive action to sharpen our focus, reduce our cost structure and advance our innovative research and development,” Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier said in a statement.

In its most recent quarter, the drug maker reported net income of $781 million, or 26 cents a share, down from a year-earlier profit of $908 million, or 30 cents.

Excluding one-time items, Merck said it earned 88 cents, missing average analyst estimates in a Thomson Reuters poll by a penny.

Revenue for the three-month period was down 4% to $11.3 billion from $11.7 billion a year ago, slightly below the Street’s view of $11.6 billion.

Sharp sales declines of its asthma treatment Singulair, suffering from generic competition after its patent expired in 2012, offset demand for it arthritis treatment Remicade.

Shares of Merck were up 2.2% to $54.67 in recent trade.