Merck Posts Better-Than-Expected  Earnings but Warns of Lower Sales

Merck posts adjusted earnings that beat analysts’ forecasts but lowers its full-year 2020 guidance as the coronavirus pandemic shifts demand for its products.

Pharmaceutical giant Merck  (MRK) - Get Report posted adjusted earnings that beat analysts’ forecasts as sales of its drugs and vaccines brought in more revenue than expected, though it lowered its full-year 2020 forecast as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic shifts demand for its products.

Merck posted adjusted earnings of $3.2 billion, or $1.50 a share, vs. income of $2.9 billion, or $1.22 a share, in the first three months of 2019. Analysts polled by FactSet had been expecting earnings of $1.34 a share. Revenue came in at $12.1 billion, up 11% from last year and also above analysts’ forecasts.

Strong sales of key drugs like its cancer-fighting treatment Keytruda as well as human vaccines helped propel first-quarter earnings, the company said. Even so, “roughly two-thirds of Merck’s pharmaceutical revenue is comprised of physician-administered products, which, despite strong underlying demand, are being impacted by social distancing measures, fewer well visits and delays in elective surgeries due to Covid-19.”

“These impacts, as well as prioritization of Covid-19 patients at health care providers, are resulting in reduced administration of many of our human health products,” Merck said, adding that it expects “… reduced demand for its physician-administered products while pandemic-related access measures remain in place.”

Merck said it is now sees full-year adjusted per-share earnings of between $5.17 and $5.37 on 2020 revenue of between $46.1 billion and $48.1 billion. Analysts expect revenue of $48.8 billion.

Specific to ongoing research on a coronavirus vaccine, Merck said it continues to proactively work on a broad-based development program “… assessing our available antiviral candidates and vaccine assets for potential to impact Covid-19.”

Shares of Merck were down 4.23% at $80.43 in trading on Tuesday.