Kenilworth, N.J.-based Merck posted adjusted net income of $3 billion, or $1.74 a share, vs. income of $2.67 billion, or $1.51 a share, in the third quarter of 2019. Analysts polled by FactSet had been expecting earnings of $1.44 a share.
Revenue at the pharmaceutical giant came in at $12.6 billion, up 1% from last year's $12.4 billion though also above analysts’ forecasts of $12.2 billion.
“We continue to execute on our strategic priorities and remain confident we will achieve solid full-year revenue growth despite the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic," CEO Kenneth Frazier said in a statement. "Demand for our products remains robust, and production, supply and distribution of our medicines, vaccines and animal health products are moving forward with minimal disruption.”
Strong sales of both 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 21% to $3.72 billion.
That was offset, however, by a 10% drop in sales of the company's HPV vaccine Gardasil 9, Merck said, as lower back-to-school demand negatively impacted vaccine sales, in particular Gardasil 9.
On the operating expenses front, Merck said lower promotional and selling costs as well as lower research and development expenses net of investments in Covid-19-related antiviral and vaccine research programs helped drive improvement of approximately $115 million.
Meantime, Merck said it has accelerated three Covid-19 related vaccine and antiviral research programs, including a collaboration with Ridgeback Bio on an orally available antiviral candidate for the treatment of Covid-19 that is in stage 2/3 trial and a separate collaboration with IAVI to develop a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate using the same platform as Merck's approved Ebola Zaire virus vaccine.
The company lifted its 2020 adjusted earnings outlook to $5.91 to $6.01 a share from earlier guidance of $5.63 to $5.78.
Shares of Merck were up 1.42% at $79.96 in trading on Tuesday.