Merck Raises Full-Year Profit Target After Cancer Drug Sales Help Third-Quarter Beat

By Reuters
October 28, 2021 Updated: October 28, 2021

Merck & Co. Inc. raised its full-year adjusted profit forecast on Thursday, after strong demand for its blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda and recovery in sales of its non-COVID-19 vaccines helped it beat third-quarter profit estimates.

Sales of vaccines and physician-administered drugs have started to improve as hospitals and clinics adapt to the pandemic, helping Merck, which gets two-thirds of its revenue from drugs that need to be administered at the doctor’s office.

The company now expects full-year adjusted profit to be between $5.65 and $5.70 per share, up from its prior expectations of $5.47 to $5.57.

The forecast did not include any potential contribution from Merck’s oral COVID-19 drug candidate, molnupiravir. That could give Merck’s profit forecast room to grow if the drug gets U.S. authorization this year.

Merck’s shares rose 1 percent before the opening bell.

The company earlier this month reported data that showed molnupiravir could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalized for those most at risk of developing severe COVID-19.

Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics have applied for emergency use authorization of the drug, which could potentially change how COVID-19 is treated.

Net income attributable to Merck rose to $4.57 billion, or $1.81 per share in the third-quarter, from $2.94 billion, or $1.16 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, Merck earned $1.75 per share, beating estimates of $1.55 per share.

Sales from Gardasil, a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer due to human papillomavirus, jumped nearly 68 percent to $1.99 billion, beating analysts’ average estimate of $1.35 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Sales from cancer drug Keytruda, which is on track to become the world’s best-selling treatment by 2023, rose 22 percent to $4.53 billion, beating estimates of $4.31 billion.