reaffirmed it expects 2008 adjusted earnings of $3.28 to $3.32 a share and said for 2009 it expects earnings excluding items of $3.15 to $3.30 a share, which is below analyst estimates.
Analysts surveyed by
expect 2008 earnings of $3.29 a share and 2009 earnings of $3.52 a share.
Guidance for 2009 includes a pretax charge of about $400 million to $600 million associated with the company's restructuring programs.
"In 2009, we expect strong product volume growth from key products such as Januvia/Janumet, Isentress and Zostavax," said Chairman and CEO Richard Clark in a press release Thursday. "However, we anticipate that top-line growth will be offset by the effects of a volatile global economy, fluctuations in the foreign exchange markets, as well as continued challenges for certain key products."
The company also its anticipated performance in 2009 and the resulting cash flow, coupled with its "strong" balance sheet, will enable the company to maintain its dividend at current levels.
Merck pays a quarterly dividend of 38 cents a share.