FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Higher sales in emerging markets and lower charges for a discontinued drug helped German drug and chemicals company Merck KGaA nearly triple its fourth quarter profits, but the company still missed analyst estimates.
The company reported Tuesday that it made a net profit of euro135.6 million ($179 million) during the quarter, way up from the previous year's equivalent of euro46.5 million, when it wrote down the value of Parkinson's disease drug safinamide by euro134 million.
Results fell short of the consensus of analysts' expectations of around euro192 million. Merck shares were down 1.4 percent at euro79.58 in morning trading in Germany.
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.
A more detailed look at the results shows that Merck's sales for the quarter increased 3.1 percent to euro2.62 billion. The company, which makes multiple sclerosis drug Rebif and cancer treatment Erbitux, 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 and short of the analyst average of euro635 million. One-time charges of euro487 million reduced earnings for the year. And it said that strong cash flow permitted it to increase its dividend to euro1.50 per share from euro1.25 per share despite the slip in net profit.
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 cosmetic ingredients and liquid-crystal displays for televisions.
It is separate from U.S.-based Merck & Co., Inc.