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Merck 1Q Net Rises 67% On Lower Costs; Sales Growth Slows

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Merck & Co.'s (MRK) first-quarter earnings rose 67% as the drug maker's cost controls helped offset slower-than-expected sales growth. Merck, like its rivals, has been cutting costs as part of an effort to soften the hit from increased generic competition. The company's top-selling allergy and asthma medication Singulair loses patent exclusivity in August and the ripple-effect from generic versions of rival Pfizer Inc.'s (PFE) cholesterol fighter Lipitor have contributed to a decline in sales of Merck's anticholesterol drug Vytorin. Merck has said it expects to seek regulatory approval for five new products this year and in 2013, including potential treatments for osteoporosis, insomnia and a next-generation vaccine against a cancer-causing virus. The drug maker also has been focusing on areas such as hepatitis C and diabetes. Merck reported a profit of $1.74 billion, or 56 cents a share, up from $1.04 billion, or 34 cents, a year earlier. Excluding items such as acquisition-related and restructuring costs, earnings rose to 99 cents from 92 cents. Its March projection was earnings of 95 cents to 98 cents a share, below analysts' expectations at the time. Sales rose 1.3% to $11.73 billion, missing the $11.82 billion forecast from analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. Operating margin rose to 21.4% from 14.9%, reflecting a 14% drop in research and development costs. Pharmaceutical sales grew 2.7% to $10.08 billion. Singulair sales edged up 0.9%, while sales of Vytorin declined 8%. The animal-health business, which includes products for farm animals and pets, posted a 8.3% revenue increase. Sales in the consumer division--which includes over-the-counter allergy medicine Claritin and Coppertone skin-care products--rose 7.2%. Shares closed Thursday at $38.47 and were inactive premarket. The stock is up 2% so far this year. -By Melodie Warner, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2283; melodie.warner@dowjones.com

Stock News for Merck (MRK)
DateTimeHeadline
12/18/201408:51:07Merck Acquires OncoEthix for Up to $375 Million
12/09/201416:08:36Merck Reaffirms Commitment to Cubist Deal Despite Patent Ruling...
12/09/201415:54:02MARKET SNAPSHOT: The S&P 500 Recorded Its Biggest Drop In Nearly...
12/09/201415:50:44Merck Reaffirms Commitment to Cubist Deal Despite Patent Ruling
12/08/201422:16:42Merck to Buy Cubist Pharmaceuticals for $8.4 Billion -- 6th Update
12/08/201419:12:00Merck to Buy Cubist Pharmaceuticals for $8.4 Billion -- 5th Update
12/08/201419:11:47Merck to Buy Cubist Pharmaceuticals for $8.4 Billion -- 4th Update
12/08/201419:04:54MARKET SNAPSHOT: Energy Companies Drag U.S. Stocks Lower
12/08/201418:56:04Merck to Buy Cubist Pharmaceuticals for $8.4 Billion -- 3rd Update
12/08/201418:54:55U.S. Stocks Down
12/08/201418:51:53Correction to U.S. Stocks Story
12/08/201418:51:25U.S. Stocks Edge Lower
12/08/201418:49:08Correction to Merck-Cubist Deal Story
12/08/201418:02:18MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks: Futures Fall As Global Growth Concerns...
12/08/201412:39:54MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks: Futures Falling, With Dow Poised...
11/24/201409:57:19Bristol-Myers, Five Prime to Collaborate on Immunotherapy
11/17/201411:41:20U.S. Stocks Bounce Back from Early Loses
11/17/201405:11:44Pfizer, Germany's Merck to Develop Tumor Treatment -- Update
10/27/201416:37:41MARKET SNAPSHOT: Energy Stocks Sap S&P 500
10/27/201414:06:16MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Retreat; Energy Stocks Sell Off

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