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Merck 3Q profit soars, beats analysts' views
Drugmaker Merck profit climbs from year-ago results weighed down by charges, beats Street view
By The Associated Press

Drugmaker Merck & Co. said Friday that its third-quarter profit soared from results a year ago that were weighed down by huge acquisition and legal charges.

The latest results beat Wall Street estimates, and Merck shares rose 2.5 percent to $35.15 in premarket trading.

"Three consecutive quarters of top and bottom line growth demonstrate out ability to consistently perform while at the same time making the strategic investments necessary for the future," CEO Kenneth Frazier said in a statement.

The maker of diabetes drug Januvia and Singulair for asthma and allergies said net income climbed to $1.69 billion, or 55 cents per share, the July-September period. That's up from $342 million, or 11 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding acquisition and restructuring charges in the latest quarter, adjusted income 94 cents per share. The charges were mostly related to its November 2009 purchase of fellow drugmaker Schering-Plough Corp. for $49 billion.

The adjusted earnings were 3 cents per share higher than the 91 cents per share expected by analysts surveyed by FactSet. The analysts typically exclude one-time items from their estimates.

Revenue rose 8 percent to $12.02 billion from $11.12 billion. The analysts expected revenue of $11.62 billion. Merck said revenue was boosted about 5 percent by favorable currency exchange rates.

The company raised the lower end of its 2011 forecast, to a new range of $3.72 to $3.76 per share, or $2.03 to $2.20 per share excluding one-time items. Analysts expect $3.73 per share for the year.

Prescription drug sales totaled $10.35 billion, led by strong sales of Singulair, Januvia and combination diabetes drug Janumet, the HIV drug Isentress and the Gardasil and Zostavax vaccines.

Singulair, Merck's top drug, saw sales rise 10 percent to $1.34 billion. Its U.S. patent expires next August, when generic competition will quickly reduce sales ' the key reason for Merck's latest round of job cuts.

Januvia and Janumet sales both jumped more than 40 percent, to $846 million and $350 million, respectively. They have quickly risen to be among the most popular and fastest-growing diabetes pills.

Sales of biologic immune disorder drug Remicade fell 15 percent to $561 million, because of revised terms of Merck's revenue-sharing deal on the drug with Johnson & Johnson. The new terms took effect in the third quarter, following settlement of a dispute in arbitration.

Sales of animal health products jumped 20 percent to $826 million. Consumer health sales edged up 3 percent to $421 million.

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