Merck Posts Second-Quarter Earnings Beat and Lifts Guidance

Merck posts adjusted earnings that beat analysts’ forecasts and lifts full-year guidance as sales of its drugs and vaccines bring in more revenue than expected.
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Pharmaceutical giant Merck  (MRK) - Get Report Friday posted adjusted earnings and sales Friday that handily beat analysts’ forecasts as sales of its drugs and vaccines brought in more revenue than expected.

It also raised its full-year 2020 earnings and sales forecasts.

Merck posted adjusted earnings of $3 billion, or $1.37 a share, vs. income of $2.67 billion, or $1.30 a share, in the second quarter of 2019. Analysts polled by FactSet had been expecting earnings of $1.06 a share.

Revenue was $10.9 billion, down 8% from last year though also above analysts’ forecasts of $10.4 billion.

“Despite the impact Covid-19 had on patient access to healthcare providers, Merck continued to execute well,” CEO Kenneth Frazier said in a statement. “We remain confident that Merck will drive strong long-term growth based on underlying demand for our unique portfolio of innovative medicines, vaccines and animal health products.”

Strong sales of key drugs like its cancer-fighting treatment Keytruda as well as human vaccines helped propel second-quarter earnings, the company said. Keytruda sales for the quarter jumped 29% to $3.4 billion.

That was enough for Merck to re-adjust its full-year sales and earnings expectations higher, after lowering them in the first quarter. Merck said it is now expects full-year adjusted per-share earnings of between $5.63 and $5.78 on revenue of between $47.2 billion and $48.7 billion.

Meantime, Merck said it has accelerated three Covid-19 related vaccine and antiviral research programs - part of its effort to help find a viable coronavirus vaccine that it kicked off in May.

The company is working with IAVI to develop a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate using the same platform as its approved Ebola Zaire virus vaccine.

It is also developing a vaccine candidate that uses a measles “virus vector” platform with Themis, a biotech company it purchased in June. That vaccine is currently in preclinical development, with clinical studies planned to start in the third quarter.

Merck is also working with Ridgeback Bio on an oral antiviral Covid-19 treatment. That one is currently being evaluated in Phase 2 clinical trials.

“We are conscious of our abiding responsibility to help advance vaccine and antiviral efforts as part of the global response to SARS-CoV-2 and to ensure broad, equitable and affordable global access to any medicines and vaccines we bring forward,” Frazier said.

Shares of Merck were up 1.44% at $80.07 in trading on Friday.