Widespread infections early in the year weigh on Merck Q1

Drugmaker Merck’s first-quarter profit dipped 1%, due to flat sales as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to limit doctor and hospital visits, along with higher spending on research and medicine production

KENILWORTH, NJ — Merck’s first-quarter profit dipped 1% as people continued to put off doctor and hospital visits early this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it spent more on research and production.

While it fell short of Wall Street profit expectations, Merck maintained its profit forecast for the year.

The maker of cancer blockbuster Keytruda and Januvia diabetes pills said Thursday that net income was $3.18 billion, or $1.25 per share, down from $3.22 billion, or $1.26 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time gains and costs, adjusted earnings came to $3.56 billion, or $1.40 per share. Wall Street was expecting $1.63 per share, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue totaled $12.08 billion, up a tad from $12.06 billion in 2020’s first quarter. As per usual, sales were led by cancer immunotherapy Keytruda, which hauled in $3.9 billion in the quarter, nearly one quarter of total revenue.

“While our results this quarter were impacted by the pandemic, the underlying demand for our innovative products remains strong and we remain confident in our future growth prospects,” chief executive Ken Frazier, who is retiring on June 30, said in a statement.

Shares fell more than 3% before the opening bell.

Merck expects adjusted earnings per share for 2021 of $6.48 to $6.68, unchanged from forecasts in January. It expects revenue for the year to grow 8% to 10%, to a range of $51.8 billion and $53.8 billion, also the same as its last forecast.

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A portion of this story was generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on MRK at https://www.zacks.com/ap/MRK

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