Merck KGaA's healthcare sales rise 1.2 percent in Q3, as revenue from Rebif, Erbitux drops

Merck KGaA said Thursday that third-quarter sales in its healthcare unit rose 1.2 percent year-over-year to 1.7 billion euros ($2 billion), as organic growth of 5.8 percent was partly offset by negative currency exchange effects. The company noted that sales of Rebif reached 389 million euros ($452 million), falling 6.9 percent on an organic basis, while revenue from Erbitux dropped 1.6 percent to 207 million euros ($240 million). 

"We generated healthy organic growth in healthcare and life science," remarked CEO Stefan Oschmann, adding "we confirm the full-year guidance despite currency headwinds." 

In the quarter, Merck reported sales of 236 million euros ($274 million) for its consumer healthcare business, reflecting year-over-year increase of 11 percent, mainly due to growth in  Asia and Latin America. Analysts from Berenberg described the performance as a "standout quarter." 

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In September, Merck announced that it was considering strategic options for the consumer healthcare business, including a possible sale. Analysts have estimated a value of about $4.5 billion for the unit. Merck said Thursday that it has sent information on its consumer health business to prospective buyers.

Last month, sources suggested that Pfizer will soone initiate an auction process for its consumer healthcare business. "The Pfizer business is clearly bigger and appeals to a different group of buyers, it is strongly focused on the [US]," Oschmann commented, adding "our business has stronger growth and is geared towards emerging markets." The executive said "we do like the business very much, but size also plays a role in the new market environment and we believe it's not the right future for this business to be on its own."

For the full year, Merck cautioned that because of a more difficult exchange-rate environment, revenue is likely to be at the lower end of its prior guidance of 15.3 billion euros ($17.8 billion) to 15.7 billion euros ($18.3 billion), with earnings also anticipated to be at the lower end of the range of 4.4 billion euros ($5.1 billion) to 4.6 billion euros ($5.4 billion). 

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