Updated from 8:42 a.m. EDTMerck ( MRK) missed analysts' profit forecast for the first quarter, said that sales declined from a year earlier and lowered its full-year net earnings estimate because of costs related to the pending merger with Schering-Plough ( SGP). Shares of the Whitehouse Station, N.J., drugmaker were down 6.1% at $23.69 recently. Merck, one of five components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average reporting results Tuesday, said it earned 74 cents a share in the quarter, excluding items. On average, Wall Street analysts were predicting 77 cents. After factoring in the items, Merck earned $1.46 billion, or 67 cents a share. A year earlier, the company made $3.33 billion, or $1.52 a share. The 2008 results included a $1.4 billion after-tax gain from a distribution from AstraZeneca ( AZN).
Merck said the proposal to combine its operations with Schering-Plough is going as planned, and the companies expect to close the transaction in the fourth quarter. The planned merger is one of a series of deals that has reshaped the pharmaceutical and biotech arena in recent months. The other, and bigger, blockbuster has Pfizer ( PFE) acquiring Wyeth ( WYE). Among other pacts, Roche recently took over Genentech, in which it already owned a significant stake, and just this week GlaxoSmithKline ( GSK) said it has agreed to buy privately held Stiefel Laboratories.