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Merck Stock Jumps After Q3 Earnings Beat, 2021 Profit Forecast Boost

Merck lifted its full-year profit forecast following a better-than-expected third quarter highlighted by the development of its COVID pill treatment molnupiravir.

Merck & Co. Inc.  (MRK) - Get Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK) Report posted stronger-than-expected third quarter earnings Thursday, and boosted its full-year profit guidance, as it looks for FDA approval for its developing COVID pill molnupiravir.

Merck said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in September were pegged at $1.75, down one penny from the same period last year but firmly ahead the Street consensus forecast of $1.55 per share. Group revenues, Merck said, rose 20% to $13.1 billion again topping analysts' estimates of a $12.34 billion tally. Sales for Keytruda, Merck's blockbuster cancer treatment, rose 22% to just over $4.5 billion, while its Gardasil HPV vaccine sales rose 68% to $2 billion

Looking into the 2021 financial year, Merck said it sees worldwide sales of between $47.4 billion to $47.9 billion and non-GAAP earnings of between $5.65 to $5.70 per share, up from its prior forecast of $5.47 to $5.57.

“Merck delivered another strong quarter with positive momentum across our business and meaningful progress across our pipeline. Our teams continued to excel as we focus on evolving our operations, while driving innovations in our labs that exemplify the best of Merck science,” said CEO Robert Davis. “We achieved notable clinical milestones in the key areas of oncology and COVID-19, including positive Phase 3 results for molnupiravir. We recently announced our proposed acquisition of Acceleron, which will strengthen our cardiovascular portfolio with complementary, cutting-edge science and an exciting late-stage candidate."

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"Looking ahead, we remain focused on building more momentum, delivering on our mission of saving and improving lives and continuing to expand our portfolio and pipeline for long-term success and sustainable value creation,” he added.  

Merck shares were marked 3.9% higher in early trading immediately following the earnings release to change hands at $84.70 each.

Earlier this month, Merck said it's seeking Emergency Use Authorization for the pill, known as 'molnupiravir', for treatment of "mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults who are at risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization." The Biden Administration, in fact, has already committed in June to buying 1.7 million doses -- worth around $1.2 billion -- if the drug is ultimately authorized.

Merck, which developed the oral treatment with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, said the treatment significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization or death" in patients participating in a late-stage trial. Molnupiravir, or MK-4482, is designed to induce so-called "copying errors" within a harmful virus that prevent it from replicating in the human body.