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Germany's Merck KGaA increases Q4 net to $179M

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Stronger emerging market sales and lower charges for a discontinued drug helped German drug and chemicals company Merck KGaA increase its net profit to euro135.6 million ($179 million) in the fourth quarter.

The result compares to euro46.5 million from the same quarter a year ago, when the company wrote down the value of Parkinson's disease drug safinamide by euro134 million. In October, Merck announced it was handing back rights to the drug to partner Newron Pharmaceuticals SpA, saying safinamide had a more limited potential than originally thought. It said at the time it would incur euro40 million in additional costs in the fourth quarter for closing out its involvement with the drug.

Sales for the quarter increased 3.1 percent to euro2.62 billion. The company said the fourth quarter continued full-year trends including stronger sales in emerging markets and the U.S. that offset weakness in Europe.

The company reported full year earnings of euro617 million, a decrease of 2.3 percent. One-time charges of euro487 million reduce earnings for the year. The company said that strong cash flow permitted it to increase its dividend despite the slip in net profit, proposing an increase to euro1.50 per share from euro1.25 per share. Full-year sales rose 10.6 percent to euro10.28 billion, boosted by the acquisition of U.S.-based laboratory materials maker Millipore Corp., now Merck Millipore, midway through 2010.

Merck, based in Darmstadt, also makes liquid-crystal displays for televisions and cosmetic ingredients. It is separate from U.S.-based Merck & Co., Inc.