Why Merck’s Q4 Earnings Aren’t Enough for Investors

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Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) reported its fourth-quarter financial results before the markets opened on Thursday. The company posted $0.89 in earnings per share (EPS) and $10.12 billion in revenue, versus consensus estimates of $0.89 in EPS and revenue of $10.22 billion. In the same period of last year, the pharma giant posted EPS of $0.93 and $10.22 billion in revenue.

Fourth-quarter pharmaceutical sales decreased 1% to $8.9 billion, primarily due to the loss of U.S. market exclusivity in 2016 for Cubicin, Nasonex and Zetia. However, these declines were largely offset by growth in oncology, hepatitis C, diabetes and vaccines, which include the ongoing launches of Keytruda and Zepatier.

Animal Health sales totaled $884 million for the fourth quarter of 2016, an increase of 6% when compared year over year.

In terms of the guidance for the 2017 full year, the company expects EPS to be in the range of $3.72 to $3.87 and revenues to be between $38.6 billion and $40.1 billion. The consensus estimates call for $3.83 in EPS and $40.13 billion in revenue.

During this quarter, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a supplemental Biologics License Application for Keytruda for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer whose tumors have high PD-L1 expression.

Kenneth C. Frazier, board chair and chief executive of Merck, commented:

The performance of Merck’s broad and balanced portfolio allows us to remain committed to biomedical innovation that saves and improves lives and delivers long-term value to shareholders. The momentum behind our pipeline and key product launches, including the continued growth and expansion of KEYTRUDA into new indications and markets around the world, further reinforces our company’s strategic direction.

Shares of Merck closed Wednesday at $62.10, in a 52-week trading range of $47.97 to $65.46. Following the release of the earnings report, the stock was relatively flat in early trading indications Thursday.