Merck & Co., Inc. MRK reported third-quarter 2019 adjusted earnings of $1.51 per share, which beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.25. Earnings rose 27% year over year on a reported basis as well as excluding the impact of currency.
Including acquisition- and divestiture-related costs, restructuring costs and certain other items, earnings per share were 74 cents compared with 73 cents in the year-ago quarter.
Revenues for the quarter rose 15% year over year to $12.4 billion, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $11.7 billion. Currency movement negatively impacted revenues by 1%. Excluding currency impact, sales rose 16% year over year.
Strength in cancer drugs, especially Keytruda, and Gardasil vaccine and a strong performance in international markets, especially China, offset headwinds from loss of exclusivity (“LOE”) for some products including Zetia and Vytorin, and competitive pressure for Janumia and Janumet. Sales in China surged 84% (90% excluding Fx impact) from the year-ago period.
Quarter in Detail
The Pharmaceutical segment generated revenues of $11.1 billion, up 15% (up 16% excluding Fx impact) year over year as higher sales in oncology and vaccines were offset by lower sales in virology. As in the previous quarters, LOE for several drugs hurt the top line.
Keytruda, the largest product in Merck’s portfolio, generated sales of $3.1 billion in the quarter, up around 18% sequentially and 62% year over year. Sales were driven by the launch of new indications globally. Keytruda sales are gaining particularly from strong momentum in first-line lung cancer indication and launch in newer indications namely renal cell carcinoma and adjuvant melanoma.
Keytruda is already approved for many types of cancers and treatment settings including lung cancer, melanoma, head and neck cancer, classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma and bladder cancer. In July, the FDA approved a label expansion of the drug to include patients with recurrent locally advanced or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus.
Alliance revenues from Lynparza and Lenvima also boosted oncology sales in the quarter.
Lynparza alliance revenues were $123 million in the quarter compared with $111 million in the previous quarter. Lenvima alliance revenues were $109 million compared with $97 million in the previous quarter.
Merck has a deal with Swiss pharma giant AstraZeneca AZN to co-develop and commercialize PARP inhibitor Lynparza and a similar one with Japan’s Eisai for tyrosine kinase inhibitor, Lenvima.
In the hospital specialty portfolio, Bridion (sugammadex) Injection generated sales of $284 million in the quarter, up 31% year over year, driven by strong demand in the United States.
In vaccines, Gardasil/Gardasil 9 sales rose 46% year over year to $1.32 billion, gaining from ongoing commercial launch in China and strong growth in Europe. Favorable public sector buying patterns, and positive demand and pricing in the United States also boosted sales of the vaccine.
Proquad, M-M-R II and Varivax vaccines recorded combined sales of $623 million, up 19% year over year. Sales were driven by higher demand in Europe, favorable pricing in the United States and government orders from Latin America.
Pharmaceutical sales were hurt by generic competition for blockbuster drug, Remicade in Merck’s marketing territories in Europe and loss of U.S. market exclusivity for Invanz, Cubicin, Zetia and Vytorin.
Remicade sales declined 37.6% year over year to $101 million in the quarter. Please note that Merck markets Remicade in partnership with J&J JNJ.
Zetia and Vytorin recorded sales of $147 million and $57 million, down 10.9% and 38%, respectively from the year-ago quarter due to LOE for both drugs. Adempas sales grew 13.8% to $107 million. Atozet sales were down 15.5% to $97 million. Strong growth in sales of Adempas and Atozet partially offset loss of sales in the cardiovascular segment. Please note that Adempas is commercialized in collaboration with Bayer BAYRY.
Januvia/Janumet (diabetes) franchise sales declined 12% year over year to $1.31 billion due to continued pricing pressure in the United States, which was partially offset by higher sales in ex-U.S. markets. Sales of Isentress declined 9% to $250 million.
Merck’s Animal Health segment generated revenues of $1.12 billion, up 10% (up 12% excluding Fx impact) from the year-ago quarter, driven by higher sales of its companion animal products as well as livestock products, particularly products added from the acquisition of Antelliq.
Adjusted gross margin came in at 75.9%, down 80 basis points from the year-ago quarter driven primarily by higher amortization of certain expenses.
Selling, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses were $2.6 billion in the reported quarter, up 5% year over year driven by higher administrative and promotion costs, partially offset by favorable impact of foreign exchange movement. Research and development (R&D) spend rose 7% to $2.2 billion in the quarter due to ongoing clinical studies and cost related to early drug development.
2019 Guidance Up
Merck increased its earnings and sales guidance for 2019.
Merck expects revenues to be in the range of $46.5 billion – $47 billion versus the previous expectation of $45.2 billion – $46.2 billion. The Zacks Consensus Estimate is pegged at $46.03 billion. Adjusted earnings are now expected to be in the range of $5.12–$5.17, much higher than the previously guided range of $4.84–$4.94. The Zacks Consensus Estimate is pegged at $4.91 per share. The revenue guidance includes approximately 2% negative impact of currency fluctuation.
The company maintained its expectation for adjusted operating expenses to increase year over year at mid-single digit rate.
Merck’s third-quarter results were strong as the company beat estimates for earnings as well as sales. It raised its earnings expectations for the year for the third consecutive quarter. Shares were up by more than 2.5% in pre-market trading. Merck’s shares have outperformed the industry so far this year. It has risen 7.5% in the said time frame while the industry recorded 1.6% increase.
Importantly, Keytruda continued its robust performance on strong demand trends and label expansions. Vaccine products also performed strongly and continue to be core growth drivers for Merck.
Going forward, growth of key products like Keytruda, Lynparza, Gardasil, Bridion and Animal Health should continue to make up for the headwinds from LOE, softness in the diabetes franchise, and competitive pressure on Zepatier and Zostavax.
Merck & Co., Inc. Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise
Merck & Co., Inc. price-consensus-eps-surprise-chart | Merck & Co., Inc. Quote
Merck currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
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