With Merck ( MRK) these days, Wall Street is focusing more on processes, like cost-cutting, and events, like Vioxx lawsuits, than it is on products. For the company, whose stock continues to stumble 13 months after it removed the arthritis drug Vioxx from the market, this is a fact of life. The stock fell to $33 on Sept. 30, 2004, the day Merck announced the drug was being pulled, from the previous day's close of $45.07. In trading Friday, the stock was below $27. Merck investors will find out Monday if the drugmaker has anything to offer that might jump-start the shares. The company will report its earnings before the opening bell, and for the just-completed quarter, analysts expect a profit of 62 cents a share before items and revenue of $5.45 billion, according to Thomson First Call. For the same period last year, Merck earned 60 cents a share on revenue of $5.54 billion. Analysts' opinions for the third quarter don't vary much, with the individual earnings predictions in a range of 58 cents to 64 cents.
What Clark Knows
A number of unanswered questions surround Merck, namely if the company will reveal any details about its Vioxx-liability plans, the status of the dividend and whether some sort of restructuring is needed to help the company prepare for the future. One person who could answer these questions is Richard Clark, Merck's 59-year-old chief executive. Monday's financial report and meeting with analysts will be Clark's first full-scale encounter with Wall Street since he was named to the job in early May to replace Raymond Gilmartin, who departed 10 months ahead of schedule. Clark has said little to the financial community, and he skipped the second-quarter financial briefing in July. In a letter to shareholders last month, Clark said Merck must reduce its cost structure "over and above what we have achieved to date."