Merck KGaA says third-quarter sales in Serono unit rise 3.7 percent, boosted by Rebif

Merck KGaA announced Thursday that third-quarter sales in its Serono unit rose 3.7 percent year-over-year to 1.5 billion euros ($1.9 billion), lifted by higher sales of key drugs and strong performance in emerging markets. "Business with our existing medicines, not least Rebif, was very robust," commented CEO Karl-Ludwig Kley, adding "organic growth of our fertility drug Gonal-f...was particularly strong."

Quarterly sales of Rebif increased 1.3 percent to 466 million euros ($581 million), despite increasing competitive pressure from oral therapies. Meanwhile, revenue from Erbitux and Gonal-f rose 4 percent and 7 percent, respectively, to 232 million euros ($289 million) and 147 million euros ($183 million). In emerging markets, the company said that sales of prescription drugs lifted 11.3 percent to 442 million euros ($551 million).

Merck noted that royalty, license and commission income in its Serono unit declined 69.1 percent in the quarter to 26 million euros ($32 million). The company explained that the drop "was due primarily to lower royalty and license income from Humira and Enbrel."

Overall sales in the quarter climbed 9.3 percent to 2.9 billion euros ($3.6 billion), while net income reached 249 million euros ($310 million), down from 340 million euros ($424 million), mainly impacted by higher income taxes. The figure came in below analyst expectations of 332 million euros ($414 million).

"Merck is gearing up for a strong finish in 2014," commented Kley, noting that "all our businesses are performing well." The company indicated that it is now "assuming slight organic sales growth for the full year," with overall revenue between 11 billion euros ($13.7 billion) and 11.2 billion euros ($14 billion). In August, Merck predicted sales of about 10.9 billion euros ($13.6 billion) to 11.1 billion euros ($13.8 billion).

In September, Merck announced an agreement to acquire life science company Sigma-Aldrich for $140 per share in cash, or a total of $17 billion, expanding the presence of its Millipore unit in North America and adding exposure to Asian markets. Kley said Thursday that the company won't pursue larger takeovers for the time being, but will instead focus on reducing debt.

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